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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Legislation to Address Former Sexual Orientation Discrimination by State Department

LOVE Act offers mix of reconciliation, apology, advancement measures for former, current employees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today helped introduce legislation to correct the injustice perpetrated against approximately 1,000 people who were fired by the State Department in the 1950s and 60s because of their perceived sexual orientation.

In what came to be known as the Lavender Scare, according to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, employees were forced out on the ostensible grounds that their real or perceived sexual orientation rendered them vulnerable to blackmail, prone to getting caught in “honey traps” and a general security risk. Many more individuals were prevented from joining the State 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.

The Senate bears a special measure of responsibility for the Lavender Scare, as the State Department’s actions were in part in response to congressional investigations into “sex perversion of federal employees,” reports on the employments of “moral perverts by Government Agencies” and hearings or pressure placed on the Department through the appropriations process.

“The Lavender Scare was a painful part of our history that is rarely discussed,” Senator Baldwin said. “While decades have passed, it remains a troubling example of the role homophobia and bigotry has played in the history of our nation, including at the highest levels of federal government. I believe that we all have a shared responsibility to pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal, not less – and that starts with acknowledging and learning from the mistakes of our past. This legislation will help shine a light on this dark chapter of our history, honor the men and women that were affected and help us continue the march towards full equality.”

The LOVE Act:

  • Provides a history of the “Lavender Scare” from 1950 until today;
  • Instructs the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources to conduct an internal review of all firings during this period to determine whom State wrongfully terminated due to their perceived sexual orientation, through an orderly and transparent process that safeguards privacy rights;
  • Establishes a “reconciliation board” that would provide State officials and their families who were wrongfully terminated because of their perceived sexual orientation with the opportunity to correct their employment record to reflect their valued service;
  • Acknowledges the apology Secretary Kerry offered for these injustices and issues an apology from the Congress for its role in being complicit in these actions;
  • Instructs the State Department to establish a permanent exhibit on the “Lavender Scare” in the State Department’s National Museum of American Diplomacy;
  • Provides guidance for the Department on issues of assuring visas for the same-sex spouses of Foreign Service personnel posted overseas; and
  • Establishes an advancement board to address issues faced by current Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) employees at the State Department.

The Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration Act, or LOVE Act, of 2017 is sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), and along with Baldwin, is cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

A copy of the bill text is available here