United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry has apologized for all past discrimination against the department’s gay and lesbian employees, in a declaration published on the State Department’s website. The period of discrimination now known as the “Lavender Scare” started in the 1940s and lasted several decades. The State Department’s official history of this period records that thousands of gay employees were targeted (based on their speech, their manner of dress, and the accusations of co-workers), investigated and subsequently expelled. At the time, government agencies believed that LGBT+ people were possible targets for blackmail by foreign agents.
With a little over a week left in the Obama administration, the apology is an example of how much his presidency has worked to address LGBT+ discrimination at the State Department here and with diplomats, envoys and embassies abroad. Kerry’s apology has been well received by gay rights organizations; the Human Rights Campaign’s government affairs director David Stacy praised the secretary’s acknowledgement as long overdue. “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.”
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