Kerry Apologizes for Past Firings of Gay U.S. State Department Staff

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry apologized to hundreds of State Department employees fired during the "lavender scare."

United States Secretary of State John Kerry concludes a speech about climate change at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 9, 2017. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday apologized to hundreds of State Department employees who were fired after the start of the Cold War for being gay in what is known as the “lavender scare.”

“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 said in a statement. “These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.”

He added: “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.”

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from Maryland, wrote Kerry in November referring to the time as a “deep stain on our national history and that of the State Department.”

Cardin told Kerry he intended to “remedy this injustice” by introducing legislation to acknowledge the “lavender scare” years and offer an apology on behalf of Congress.


  • Karl Strandberg

    I respect Secretary of State John Kerry for choosing to apologize to members of the LGBTQ community, about the discriminatory termination of persons from the State Department. It is ever more important that this be done now, before the new Administration is in place.

  • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    The current Congress has a chance to do the right thing; but I’m not holding my breath. Some reactionaries like to insist that while they are not themselves prejudiced, GLBT employees were a security risk and were legitimately purged.

    To the extent GBLT employees were ever a “risk,” they were a “risk” because they quite rationally feared being outed, prosecuted, jailed and/or possibly murdered for being as God made them. The cure for that was not purging them, but renouncing the prejudice, discrimination and hatred which made them vulnerable.

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