U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a formal apology for the State Department's past discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community.
Kerry apologized to anyone affected by the department's past employment discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation. He said those employment practices "were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today."
Kerry's statement read, "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."
He also emphasized that "LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country" and noted that "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."
Kerry used the acronym LGBTI to refer to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex. Newsy uses the more common abbreviation LGBTQ, which includes queer or questioning individuals.
During a 1965 press conference, then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk told reporters, "I understand that we are being picketed by a group of homosexuals." His statement was greeted by laughter from the press.
The State Department was one of several government organizations to conduct mass purges of LGBTQ employees in the '40s and '50s, encouraged in part by the Communist purges led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
But as people in the LGBTQ community gained more rights, the State Department's position changed. The U.S. appointed its first openly gay ambassador in 1999 under Bill Clinton's administration.
And Kerry appointed the U.S.'s first special envoy to specifically address worldwide LGBTQ discrimination.