After gay-rights advocates demanded penitence, Secretary of State John Kerry apologized on Monday for the State Department’s past treatment of gay employees.
“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,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “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,” he continued.
Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, sent a letter to Mr. Kerry in November requesting an apology for the “Lavender Scare,” a period in the 1950s and 1960s during which the federal government and particularly the State Department sought to expose and expel gay and lesbian employees, who were seen as security risks.
The Human Rights Campaign, which echoed the senator’s appeal in a letter of its own last month, called the secretary of state a “champion for LGBTQ human rights in the U.S. and around the globe.”
“Although it is not possible to undo the damage that was done decades ago, Secretary Kerry’s apology sets the right tone for the State Department as it enters a new and uncertain time in our country under a new administration,” David Stacy, HRC director of government affairs, said in a statement Monday.