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A pair of Senate Democrats have introduced a resolution acknowledging and apologizing for decades of mistreatment of, and discrimination against, LGBTQ individuals at the hands of the U.S. government, including the Armed Forces and the Foreign Service.
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the resolution, which reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to treat all military service members, veterans, foreign service employees, federal civil service employees, and contractors with equal respect and fairness, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sixteen other senators, all Democrats, are co-sponsors.
The resolution notes that, for decades, the U.S. government maintained a policy barring homosexuals from serving openly in the government and military service. For example, in 1949, the Department of Defense declared that “homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory.”
Although the 1949 ban on out LGBTQ service members was eventually reversed by the 2010 repeal of DADT and the Obama-era “open service” policy on transgender personnel that was adopted in 2016, the impact of the policy was extremely harmful.
Historians estimate that at least 100,000 service members were forced out of the Armed Forces during those six decades, with countless others forced to closet themselves and hide their true identities while serving.
The resolution acknowledges the dismissal of more than 1,000 State Department employees who were dismissed due to their alleged sexual orientation, as well as former President Dwight Eisenhower’s executive order in 1953 defining “perversion” as a national security threat and the denial of security clearances to LGBTQ federal job applicants.
The senators’ resolution also mentions the McCarthy-era “Lavender Scare” that prompted the U.S. Senate to conduct hearings for the purposes of outing and firing LGBTQ federal employees, on the grounds that their sexual orientation was believed to make them an easy target for blackmail, and thus, could allow them to be compromised by foreign agents — particularly those aligned with the Soviet Union.
In 2017, former Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology for the government-sponsored discrimination against LGBTQ members of the foreign service and civilian employees at the State Department. But a formal apology for the anti-LGBTQ purges carried out by other government departments was never issued.
Nonetheless, the resolution makes clear, LGBTQ people continued to serve their country in various capacities, including in the Armed Forces, even as those prohibitions remained in place.
“This Senate resolution takes a stand on the side of respect for LBGT Americans who have served our nation, and reaffirms our commitment to treat all public servants with fairness and equality, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Baldwin said in a statement. “As we celebrate Pride Month, I take great pride in being a part of this effort to move our county forward as we join together with a shared commitment to the idea that with each passing day, and each passing year, America should become more equal, not less.”
“Throughout our history, far too many people serving our nation have lived in fear of retribution or persecution because of their sexual orientation,” Kaine said in a statement. “It’s time to acknowledge the harm caused to these Americans, their families, and our country by depriving them of the right to serve as federal civil servants, diplomats, or in the Armed Services.
“I’m proud to introduce this Senate resolution during Pride Month to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to treat everyone, including LGBT Americans, with equal respect and fairness. I will continue working toward advancing equality for all LGBT people in Virginia and across our nation.”
The Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest LGBTQ rights organizations, which has been pushing for further investigations into the purges during the “Lavender Scare” and Eisenhower’s executive order for years, issued a statement praising the introduction of the resolution.
“We salute Senators Kaine and Baldwin and their Senate colleagues for introducing this profoundly meaningful and important resolution,” Jeff Trammell, the chairman of the Mattachine Acknowledgment and Apology Project. “The ordeal of generations of LGBT service members and civil servants cannot be erased, but the truth can finally be officially acknowledged by this recognition and apology for what happened.
“The Mattachine Society is honored to have brought forward this acknowledgment and apology, supported by a research paper on the history of this federal mistreatment. Mattachine and its legal counsel McDermott Will & Emery produced the white paper which provides a chronology, an ‘evidentiary history’ and the case itself for an acknowledgment and apology.”
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