Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology Monday for the LGBT goverment employees fired from their positions starting in the 1940s, when an anti-queer conspiracy known as the Lavender Scare rocked the State Department.
"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," Kerry wrote 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."
The fear of a looming Donald Trump presidency and what that could mean for federal LGBT employees was at the center of a letter from the Human Rights Campaign last week. The LGBT group asked the State Department to apologize for the Lavender Scare after Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, an organization that the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center deems a "hate group," authored a letter to the incoming administration asking they fire LGBT "activists" from the State Department.
The HRC celebrated Kerry's apology. “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 government affairs director said in a written statement.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin first wrote Kerry asking for an apology in November, saying "at least 1,000" LGBT people lost their jobs. “There is little we can do to undo the hurts and wrongs of the past,” the Maryland senator wrote in the letter. “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.”
The apology from Secretary of State Kerry comes just 11 days before President-elect Trump is officially inaugurated. Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for secretary of State, has his confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, is a Trump supporter, but his letter was not validated by the incoming Trump administration. In December, Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, told the Washington Blade, "President-elect Trump campaigned on a message of unity in order to bring all Americans together."
"To think that discrimination of any kind will be condoned or tolerated in a Trump Administration is simply absurd," Miller added.