Updated: State Department’s apology for decades of anti-LGBTQ discrimination removed from official website
Following the first weekend of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of State’s website has deleted John Kerry’s statement apologizing for past discrimination toward federal employees and applicants based on sexual orientation, known as the Lavender Scare.
Update 1/24: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who helped get the apology from the state department has since asked the Trump Administration to put the apology back on the State department’s official website.
In a statement sent to GayRVA, Cardin noted his time in confirmation hearings for Trump appointees, as well as the removal of LGBTQ issues from official communication streams, has been “alarming” as the new administration takes office.
“I encourage the Administration to makes its public information portals reflective of all Americans and our values, and I will be monitoring this closely,” he said in the statement. “We cannot and will not turn back the clock on the hard-fought civil rights of the LGBT community. Instead we must strengthen and expand them. I am continuing to ready legislation to compel the State Department to review its actions during the Lavender Scare and make amends.”
Original piece below:
In a screen grab (Via the Wayback Machine) of the original post (which has since been taken down) Kerry apologized and acknowledged the existence of discriminatory practices within the State Department targeted toward eliminating homosexuals within the organization. Agencies, like the CIA, would filter out perceived LGBTQ employees on the grounds that homosexuality could be used as leverage by foreign adversaries.
The apology, according to the Wayback Machine, was online until today, 1/23/17.
Kerry’s apology followed direct appeals by Maryland Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consistent advocate for universal human rights, as well as groups like the Human Rights Campaign.
“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 the statement. “These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today”
In a pattern of thinking that can be traced back as far as the 1940s, released CIA documents reveal that the nature of homosexuality was viewed as a highly furtive, under-the-table, camouflaged act by the U.S. Department of State.
Known as the Lavender Scare, this sexual orientation witch hunt argued that the homosexual lived a “Jeckyll-Hide existence,” and spent his/her lifetime perfecting the routines and rituals necessary to keep their sexual identity a secret.
“Recognizing the existence of his problem and living with it require certain adjustments, and certain cover in the day-to-day life of the higher class homosexual who is our usual suspect,” one document claimed.
Signs of homosexuality, according to the document, included possession of an unlisted phone number, use of a P.O. box, possession of foreign cars, and careers in interior design, dance, and window decorating. Working in-tandem with anti-Communist sentiments, homosexuality was something personnel were encouraged to be constantly vigilant for.
In a letter sent from Sen. Cardin to Kerry on November 29th, Cardin cites David Johnson’s The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University of Chicago Press, 2006), which found that “at least 1,000 people were dismissed from the U.S. Department of State for alleged homosexuality during the 1950s and well into the 1960s.”
Cardin’s letter continued, “according to the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, employees were forced out of the Department on the ostensible grounds that their sexual orientation rendered them vulnerable to blackmail, prone to getting caught in ‘honey traps’, and made them security risks, with many more prevented from joining the Department due to a screening process that was put in place to prevent those who ‘seemed like they might be gay or lesbian’ from being hired.”
Kerry’s statement now produces a “we’re sorry, that page can’t be found,” message when opened.
It’s not the only LGBTQ-related content which yields similar results. Any old statements on LGBT Pride months or the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons has been removed as well, though “cached” versions still show possible results.
However posts that include LGBT as a secondary characteristic, like LGBT in human trafficking, remain, showing a strategic removal of pro-LGBT content.
“With each passing hour, the Trump administration continues to show the extent of their contempt for the enormous progress made over the past eight years,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, in a statement after GayRVA discovered the missing apology. Griffin’s group was instrumental in getting the State Department to release the apology, something advocates had sought for years.
“Secretary Kerry’s apology to LGBTQ employees and their families who were targeted, harassed, and fired set the right tone for the State Department, even if it couldn’t undo the damage done decades ago,” he said. “It is outrageous that the new administration would attempt to erase from the record this historic apology for witch hunts that destroyed the lives of innocent Americans. The apology, along with the other important LGBTQ content that has been removed, should immediately be restored, and President Trump should condemn such behavior at all departments and agencies.”
Trump’s official White House website removed any mention of civil rights or LGBTQ issues, as well as climate change, shortly after taking office.
GayRVA has reached out to HRC and Sen. Cardin’s office for comment and will update this story when we get a response.
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