IF YOU WERE drafted in 1968--and in fiscal year 1968, about 334,000 Americans were drafted into the U.S. armed forces--the government controlled the next two years of your life. Assuming you lasted two years, that is. In 1968 more than 16,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War. (The Vietnamese had it worse. Their death count that year was well over 200,000.)
Even if you weren't conscripted, the government owned a piece of you. Officials used draft deferments to steer people in what were seen as socially beneficial directions, such as teaching and engineering.
A host of other rules limited people's lives in more direct ways. Entrepreneurs faced artificial entry barriers aimed at protecting entrenched industries from competition. If you wanted to buy a truck and start hauling goods for a living, there were a bunch of bizarre restrictions on what products you could carry. If you wanted to run a bus route across state lines, you had to ask the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission; if they granted it, you had to petition them again any time you wanted to raise or lower your rates.
And if you wanted to take a vacation from whatever work you wound up doing, you might have trouble finding an affordable flight. The Civil Aeronautics Board decided which airlines could go to which cities and how much they could charge for trips, and it did this with far more regard for the health of a handful of air carriers than for the pocketbooks of passengers.
The government didn't recognize same-sex marriages back then, but that was hardly the biggest problem that gays and lesbians faced. In every state but Illinois, it was a criminal offense to have sex with someone of the same gender. In much of the country, you took a legal risk just by dancingwith someone of the same gender--or by being in the presence of such dancers. Vice squads regularly raided gay bars.
And the government sure wasn't about to let an openly gay person adopt a kid. The best you could hope for was to have an experience like that of Bill Jones, a gay man who adopted his son in 1968 and later described the process for NPR. "You know, I think homosexuals would make very good parents," a social worker told him. "But if I was told that [someone was gay], the committee would be obligated not to make the placement. So I hope that if a homosexual ever wants to adopt, they don't tell me." Wink, wink.
There were some tight constraints on how heterosexuals raised their kids too. Homeschooling...