US State Department apologises for “decades” of anti-LGBT discrimination

© Ralph Alswang via Flickr

The US State Department has issued a historic apology for past discrimination against the LGBT community.

Secretary of State John Kerry made the statement as he prepares to end his term in office, offering an apology to any employee that has faced discrimination for their sexuality or gender identity at the State Department.

He said: “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.”

According to the Washington Blade, the statement comes weeks after US Senator Ben Cardin wrote to Kerry asking him to formally apologise for past mass discrimination of LGBT people by the State, which he refers to as the “lavender scare”.

Cardin explained that “at least 1,000 people were dismissed” from the State Department for alleged homosexuality, on the grounds that their orientation “rendered them vulnerable to blackmail… and made them security risks”.

He wrote: “There is little we can do to undo the hurts and wrongs of the past. But we can take steps to assure that the lessons of these episodes are learned and remembered, and in so doing make a contribution to assuring that such injustice will never transpire again.”

Cardin thanked Kerry for his apology via Twitter on Monday, writing: “Thank you, @JohnKerry – the #LGBTQ community deserved this apology. Committed to keeping discrimination in the past.”

Activists have praised Kerry’s decision to make a formal apology to the LGBT community, with Human Rights Campaign‘s Government Affairs Director David Stacy calling him a “champion” for equal rights.

They said: “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.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Secretary Kerry has been a champion for LGBTQ human rights in the U.S. and around the globe.

“We are incredibly grateful for Secretary Kerry’s leadership and steadfast commitment to defending and promoting the human rights of all people, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

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