Senate resolution apologizes to ‘hundreds of thousands’ of LGBTQ federal employees

Senate resolution apologizes to ‘hundreds of thousands’ of LGBTQ federal employees

The federal government could soon apologize for actions that discriminated against LGBTQ government workers as far back as 1949 under a resolution filed Tuesday by Senate Democrats.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) are leading the resolution, which has 18 Democratic co-sponsors. The duo sponsored an identical resolution in 2021.

In a statement Tuesday, Kaine said the resolution reaffirms a commitment “to righting our past wrongs” and advancing LGBTQ equality nationwide.

“LGBT civil servants, foreign service officers and service members have made countless sacrifices and contributions to our country and national security. Despite this, our government has subjected them to decades of harassment, invasive investigations and wrongful termination because of who they are or who they love,” he said.

The resolution points to legislation, congressional hearings, reports and public statements made by members of the federal government against LGBTQ military service members, foreign service members and civilian employees, most notably during the “Lavender Scare” of the late 1950s and ’60s, when then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) linked homosexuality to communism. In 2017, former Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology to LGBTQ State Department employees for past discrimination based on sexual orientation, including during the “Lavendar Scare.”

Kaine’s resolution explicitly mentions the more than 100,000 LGBTQ service members who historians estimate were forced out of the U.S. military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity between WWII and 2011. It also references the “countless others” who were “forced to hide their identities and live in fear while serving.”

A 1994 provision passed in that year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — a policy now known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — prevented LGBTQ people from serving openly in the military, before it was repealed in 2011. A group of LGBTQ veterans who were given dishonorable discharges under the policy because of their sexual orientation sued the Department of Defense last summer, arguing that their civil rights had been violated when the department failed to update them to honorable discharges after the policy was rolled back.

Although the military has recognized the discriminatory nature of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other policies, LGBTQ veterans with dishonorable discharges must still individually prove that discrimination occurred in order to have their records corrected.

Amendments to this year’s NDAA, passed last week by the GOP-controlled House, have been criticized for similarly targeting LGBTQ service members, particularly transgender service members.

“Anyone who serves our country, whether they are in uniform or a civil servant, deserves to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity, regardless of who they are or who they love,” Baldwin, who in 2012 became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Senate, said of the resolution on Tuesday. “I am proud to lead this effort to show our commitment to creating a more accepting, equal country that lives up to our nation’s ideals.”

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