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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 13, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 02
Kerry apologizes to LGBT State Department employees for past discrimination
Section One
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Kerry apologizes to LGBT State Department employees for past discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Secretary of State John Kerry formally apologized on January 9 for past discrimination against LGBT State Department employees.

While not explicitly mentioning the so-called 'Lavender Scare' purge of Gays and Lesbians from US government jobs in the 1950s and 1960s, the move follows a late November appeal from Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland that he make the apology to victims of the Lavender Scare.

Thousands of federal employees were fired during that period, many of them from the State Department, some on grounds that their perceived sexual orientation could put them at risk for blackmail.

The apology comes less than two weeks before President Barack Obama leaves office, making the way for the Trump team.

GLIFAA, an organization made up of LGBT employees of the State Department, said in a statement that it appreciated Kerry's apology.

'Secretary Kerry's acknowledgment of historic discrimination against LGBT employees at the State Department comes as GLIFAA celebrates its 25th anniversary,' the group noted.

'We wish more of our LGBT colleagues targeted by discrimination were alive to see the progress our country has made, and we celebrate their legacy by continuing to work for full equality for LGBT employees of foreign service agencies.'

President Obama has made a priority of increasing the diversity of the federal workforce during his eight years in office, even saying that inclusion is important for US national security. Many of the pro-LGBT policies pursued by the Obama administration have centered on the State Department.

In 2015, Kerry named the first special envoy for LGBT issues. The envoy, Randy Berry, has traveled to many countries urging more humane treatment of their LGBT residents.

Secretary Kerry's full statement follows:

'Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

'In the past - as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades - the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today. On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department's steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.'

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