On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology on the behalf of the State Department for its long history of discrimination against the queer community.
According to CNN, Kerry’s apology specifically referred to queer employees and job applicants who had faced the systemic prejudice of the U.S. Department of State. Dating back to the 1940s, employees were forced to resign on the basis of their sexual orientation, and queer applicants were not considered.
“These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today,” said Kerry, via an official Department statement. “On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past.”
This apology follows an open letter from Maryland senator Ben Cardin (D), published by the Washington Blade, in which Cardin asks Kerry to “take steps to remedy a deep stain on our national history and that of the State Department itself: the legacy of the so-called ‘lavender scare’ in which hundreds of State Department employees were dismissed from service because of their perceived sexual orientation.” The letter, addressed directly to Secretary Kerry, was published in November of last year.
In a Monday statement, Cardin, a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he will proceed with legislation “[adding] the Senate’s voice to this important issue” and that will emphasize “on-going commitment to building an inclusive foreign policy and development workforce that represents all Americans.”
Not long after Cardin composed his initial letter, the Human Rights Campaign made a statement of its own, urging Secretary Kerry to issue a formal apology to the queer community.
“While it may not be possible to make up for the damage that was done decades ago,” wrote HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy, “these small but crucial gestures would help set the right tone at your Department as it enters a new and uncertain time in our country.”