In the fall of 1955, 12 men were arrested in Boise, Idaho for "infamous crimes against nature." Over a decade, it had been alleged, some of the city's most prominent men operated an underworld gay prostitution ring with hundreds of teenage boys. A story in Time, published after the scandal emerged, characterized the feelings of the day : "Boise, Idaho (pop. 50,000), the state capital, is usually thought of as a boisterous, rollicking he-man's town, and home of the rugged Westerner." How shocking, then, that there could be gay people living there. One of the more humane participants in this episode was the chief of the state's Department of Mental Health, who, rather than advocate that the men face jail time, offered that, "One alternative might be to let them form their own society and be left alone."
There's a documentary film about this episode called "The Fall of '55."
Initial claims that over a hundred boys were abused were exaggerated; only four or five boys were involved. But lives were ruined, gay men fled the city, and the sexual witch-hunt left a stamp on the state. Larry Craig is just one of the more public victims of the cultural atmosphere in this country that portrays homosexuality as disgusting and something of which to be ashamed. There are many, silent sufferers like him. You could see his shame in yesterday's press conference, and that the specter of Boise, 1955 has hung over Larry Craig all his life.
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