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John Kerry apologizes for LGBTQ discrimination in State Department

'These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.'


Jaya Saxena


Published Jan 10, 2017   Updated May 25, 2021, 5:48 am CDT

In a statement issued by the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry apologized for years of discrimination against LGBTQ people by the 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. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today,” he wrote.

The statement comes at an important moment, as many people up for nomination for Trump’s cabinet have a long history of supporting discriminatory laws and policies against LGBTQ people. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is currently at his confirmation hearing for the position of attorney general, has supported laws to criminalize LGBTQ activities, is firmly against same-sex marriage, and has opposed hate-crimes protections for LGBTQ citizens. Not to mention, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has supported “gay conversion” therapy in his home state of Indiana, and Trump himself has said he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from taking action against people who discriminate against the LGBTQ community. These are all actions and beliefs that could bring back the discrimination of the 1940s as Kerry describes it.

Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has a moderate record when it comes to LGBTQ rights. He advocated for the Boy Scouts to allow gay members, but according to the Human Rights Campaign, ExxonMobil didn’t protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination until 2015. Any protections and benefits LGBTQ employees receive seem to have more to do with federal law than company policy.

“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,” wrote Kerry. But that could all change on Jan. 20. 

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*First Published: Jan 10, 2017, 12:32 pm CST