From 1956-1965, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee headed by powerful state Senator Charley Johns of Starke, terrorized the LGBT population in state government and on university campuses with a McCarthy-esque witchhunt for "communists and homosexuals." The end result were many destroyed careers, and emotional scars that the victims carry with them to this day. The records of the committee's work were sealed in 1965, and were not released until the passage of a constitutional amendment in 1992. What is in the records show what can happen when a government operates on prurient interest and paranoia.
"Behind Closed Doors: The Dark Legacy of the Johns Committee" is an award-winning half-hour documentary detailing the work of the committee, with interviews with some of the victims and perpetrators of the harassment. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the queer history of Florida.
Following the film, there will be a panel with veteran journalists and former state capital bureau chiefs Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat and John VanGieson of the Orlando Sentinel and Bonnie Stark, whose Master's Thesis on the committee at the University of South Florida was the only body of scholarship available in the decades leading up to the release of the Johns Committee records.
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