October 16, 2013 at 6:40 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Former senator to participate in mock trial of Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn, House Un-American Activities Committee, gay news, Washington Blade

Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn. (Photo public domain)

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and gay former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Robert Raben will be among a cast of prominent attorneys participating in a “mock trial” in D.C. of the late U.S. Senators Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), Styles Bridges (R-N.H.), and Herman Welker (R-Idaho).

The three deceased senators are to be “charged” at the trial with blackmailing and causing the suicide of fellow Sen. Lester Hunt (D-Wyo.) over a 1954 gay sex scandal involving Hunt’s son, who was arrested for allegedly soliciting an undercover D.C. police officer for sodomy. The mock trial, to be performed as a “readers’ theater” play, is scheduled to take place Oct. 23 at All Souls Unitarian Church at 16th and Harvard Streets, N.W.

According to a newly published book on which the mock trial is based, “Dying For Joe McCarthy’s Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt,” McCarthy and the other two senators hatched a scheme to force Hunt to resign and withdraw from running for re-election to the Senate. The book says the senators threatened to publicize the arrest of Hunt’s son at a time when homosexuality was considered taboo and a mental disorder.

Hunt emerged as a vocal critic of McCarthy and his notorious crusade in the 1950s against what he claimed were communists working in prominent roles in the U.S. government, including the State Department and the Army, to subvert the government. In a less publicized crusade, McCarthy also pushed hard for exposing and expelling gays who worked for the government, according to historians that have studied McCarthy’s career as a senator.

Author Rodger McDaniel reports McCarthy and the other two senators wanted to force the highly popular Hunt into dropping out of his re-election bid at a time when Democrats controlled the Senate by just one vote. Hunt’s ouster was expected to result in the appointment and later the election of a Republican to replace him, enabling Republicans to gain control of the Senate and strengthen McCarthy’s hand at what critics called communist witch hunts.

In addition to Simpson and Raben, others scheduled to participate in the mock trial are gay Republican attorney and U.S. elections finance expert Trevor Potter, who will play the prosecutor; D.C. lesbian attorney Mindy Daniels, who will act as the defense attorney; retired Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden, who will preside over the mock trial; and Verizon legislative affairs executive Ed Senn, who will play McCarthy.

The Mattachine Society of Washington, co-founded by the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, is sponsoring the event at the direction of gay rights advocate Charles Francis. Francis and gay activist Rick Rosendall reinstated the corporate charter for the Mattachine Society of Washington as a new organization after Kameny allowed the charter to expire shortly before his death.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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