One of the stranger elements of an obsession with identity politics is a pathological need to continually apologize to “communities” for things that happened generations ago in far different historical contexts.
In response to a letter from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Secretary of State John Kerry made an official apology to the LGBTQLSMFT “community” for discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation during the Cold War era.
In his letter Cardin cites a book called The Lavender Scare which studies the “persecution” of gays and lesbians by the government. (It makes me wonder if Cardin or someone on his staff had just finished reading the book and decided it was good fodder for some grandstanding and pandering to one of his constituencies.)
David Johnson’s The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University of Chicago Press, 2006), the definitive academic study of the issue, found that at least 1,000 people were dismissed from the U.S. Department of State for alleged homosexuality during the 1950s and well into the 1960s before the “scare” ran its course.
According to the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, employees were forced out of the Department on the ostensible grounds that their sexual orientation rendered them vulnerable to blackmail, prone to getting caught in “honey traps”, and made them security risks, with many more prevented from joining the Department due to a screening process that was put in place to prevent those who “seemed like they might be gay or lesbian” from being hired.
It’s not clear whether Cardin is trying to say that sexual orientation was not something that made an employee vulnerable to blackmail or whether he is trying to say that the government in the name of social justice should have hired people vulnerable to blackmail despite the potential risks to their own safety and to national security. Either way, he’s ignorantly—willfully or otherwise—applying standards of today to actions taken in a drastically different social environment.
The Cold War occurred in a time when gay people more than likely did not want to be outed as being gay. You could argue all day long about what that implies about the society of the time, but it wouldn’t change what was. Being gay or (having any other secrets you didn’t want revealed) statistically made you a higher risk for blackmail. People at high risk of blackmail should not be put into positions where blackmail might endanger national security. Making personnel decisions based on those facts is not “persecution” by any reasonable definition. Using those standards then was not wrong simply because homosexuality is more socially acceptable today.
Regardless of the validity of the request, Kerry enthusiastically agreed to issue a public apology for the 1940s – 1980s having occurred.
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. 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.
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.
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.
(When did they add an “I” to the acronym? I thought it was supposed to be a “Q.” Is this one of those silly “ISIS” vs “ISIL” vs “DAESH” linguistic whizzing contests? I can’t keep up with all these new genders.)
This is the important takeaway: the current Secretary of State has apologized for his department making wise security decisions prior to his tenure, and he now thinks he has righted a grave injustice by reading three paragraphs likely prepared for him by a team of superfluous staffers.