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Kerry Apologizes to LGBT Employees, Applicants for Decades of State Dept. Discrimination

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech Jan. 9, 2016, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass. (State Department photo)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry today apologized for State Department discrimination against LGBT employees and job applicants “as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades.”

“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 in a statement. “LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country.”

“For the past several years, the department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons,” he added.

The “I” — standing for “intersex,” or people born with biological characteristics of both genders — was added to Randy Berry’s title sometime after he was appointed to the newly created post in February 2015. Kerry said at the time that the appointment would “significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.”

Today, Kerry noted that his department “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 said.

“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.”

Last month, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins complained that “the Obama administration has systematically filled the ranks of State with LGBTQ and abortion activists” and said “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.”

State Department press secretary John Kirby said he thought the president-elect’s transition team “pushed back pretty hard… on the notion that the president-elect would in any way abide by discrimination here at the State Department.”

“I think you know very well our views on human rights writ large not just here at the State Department but around the world,” Kirby said.