The Hell We’ve Been Through
Richard Schlegel, born in Berrysburg, PA, faced workplace discrimination by two different employers, the federal and state governments.
The United States military fired him as a civilian employee after discovering he was a homosexual in 1961 as part of the Lavender Scare begun by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s. He sued the United States government for lost wages. The Supreme Court ruled Schlegel was not entitled to any compensation in 1969. This is considered an important early landmark case in the fight for employment rights for LGBTQ+ people.
In 1963, Schlegel was hired for a high level position as Director of Finance for the PA Department of Highways (now PennDoT). Schlegel became involved in homophile organizations, including the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and started the central PA chapter of the Janus Society in 1965, the first LGBTQ+ organization created in central PA. In 1965, Schlegel was terminated by the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Highways for being a member of the homophile movement.