Secretary of State John Kerry during a presidential forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. (Scott J. FerrellGetty Images)
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Secretary of State John Kerry officially apologized on Monday for the State Department's past treatment of and discrimination toward LGBT people.
"Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals," Kerry said Monday in a statement.
The former Massachusetts senator touted his commitment to ensure that the "families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers," including appointing the first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.
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," Kerry added.
As the Washington Blade reported, Kerry's apology comes on the heels of a letter from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) which reminded him that "at least 1,000 people were dismissed" from the State Department for "alleged homosexuality" during the 1950s and 1960s — what has since become known as the "lavender scare."
Cardin said there "has been no public acknowledgement or apology by the Department or the U.S. Government for this history of discrimination, and the grave injustice done to these State Department employees, based on their sexual orientation."
I know that you feel every bit as strongly as I do about the issue. You have an unimpeachable record of honorable service to this nation and the ideals and values for which it stands.
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.
Last month, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins lambasted the Obama administration for allowing "openly gay ambassadors into countries that are culturally opposed to homosexuality" and urged President-elect Donald Trump to change course.
"The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the 'activists' within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out and will be replaced by conservatives who will ensure the State Department focuses on true international human rights like religious liberty which is under unprecedented assault," Perkins said.
A spokesperson for Trump's transition team told the Blade that it is "simply absurd" to "think that discrimination of any kind will be condoned or tolerated in a Trump administration."
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