A MARBLE STORM CELLAR
THE WILD EXUBERANCE with which John Singer celebrated being gay was something quite new for the Supreme Court when his cert petition arrived in April 1976. Singer's insistence on being himself even at work had gotten him fired from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency designated to combat job discrimination. He was the radical son of ultraliberal New York City Jews; his mother had been briefly jailed for union organizing. And it never occurred to Singer not to fight back.
John Singer had graduated from high school in 1962, then drifted through the civil rights and antiwar movements, served in VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and completed a two-year hitch as an Army medic. Along the way, he accepted his homosexuality. By 1969, Singer had plunged headlong into the first wave of the gay liberation movement. Settling in Seattle, he applied in 1971 for a clerk-typist job with the local office of the EEOC. Cautioned that the work required empathy for minorities, Singer replied that wouldn't be difficult since he was a double minority—Jewish and gay. He got the job.
Ten months later, Singer was notified that an investigation had uncovered "adverse information" about his suitability for federal employment. What had the taxpayer-financed probe discovered? "You are homosexual.... [A]nd you have received widespread publicity in this respect in at least two states," Singer was gravely informed. "It was all so laughable," he recalls.
A holdover from the 1950s, the Civil Service's cloak-and-dagger technique of ferreting out homosexuals was a silly anachronism when