In one of his final acts as Secretary of State, John Kerry and the Obama administration has issued a historic formal apology to LGBTQ individuals who have faced discrimination by the government. In the past the State Department was free to fire and refuse to hire anyone that was thought to be gay. Kerry is the first Secretary of State to ever publicly expose this dark chapter in the history of the American government.
From the late 1940s to 1969, gay America was wracked by the Lavender Scare. In the post-war years LGBTQ Americans were deemed communist sympathizers and purged from government positions. In 1950 the Senate published a report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Perverts in Government,” which was followed in 1953 by and executive order from President Eisenhower making homosexuality grounds for dismissal from a job in federal government. Later, government-issued public service announcements claimed that homosexuals were perverts and pedophiles.
Even with the end of the Lavender Scare in 1969, LGBTQ Americans continued to face pervasive discrimination by the government. Kerry admitted the role of the State Department played in this awful legacy.
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.
America is still far from perfect when it comes to LGBTQ rights. We commend Secretary Kerry for his leadership on righting America’s many past wrongs.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.