Senate Bill Seeks Apology for Anti-LGBTQ Persecution of Civil Servants, Soldiers

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday June 19, 2021
Originally published on June 19, 2021

Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, has introduced a bill that would acknowledge the harm caused by decades of anti-LGTBQ persecution targeting civil servants, NBC News reports.

The bill would also acknowledge the persecution of LGBTQ military servicemembers and extend an apology, the news report said.

Noting that "LGBTQ civil servants and service members were systematically fired or forced to resign due to their sexual orientation or gender identity over the past seven decades" due to "discriminatory policies," the report recalled the "Lavender Scare," a campaign to purge non-heterosexual and non-cisgender people from the ranks of government employees.

"Historians have estimated that at least 100,000 service members were forced out of the armed forces between World War II and 2011 for being LGBTQ, according to Kaine's resolution," the story said.

"More than 1,000 State Department employees were also dismissed due to their alleged sexual orientation, and others were prevented from joining due to discriminatory hiring practices," the news article went on to say.

Saying that "far too many people serving our nation have lived in fear of retribution or persecution because of their sexual orientation," Sen. Kaine declared, "It's time to acknowledge the harm caused to these Americans, their families, and our country by depriving them of the right to serve as federal civil servants, diplomats, or in the Armed Services."

Out Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined Kaine in introducing the bill, NBC News noted.

"As we celebrate Pride Month, I take great pride in being a part of this effort to move our county forward as we join together with a shared commitment to the idea that with each passing day, and each passing year, America should become more equal, not less," Baldwin said.

The Lavender Scare was an aspect of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Red Scare; the purge of LGBTQ civil servants gathered steam in 1953 after then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower's signing of Executive Order 10450, which targeted LGTBQ civil servants for firing.

Among those who lost their jobs under that executive order was astronomer and World War II veteran Frank Kameny, who refused to accept his firing quietly. Kameny took the government to court, and though he lost his case he became an equality trailblazer.

The Civil Service Commission lifted its ban on government employees in 1975. Two decades after that, in 1995, then-President Bill Clinton "issued an executive order that prohibited the government from denying security clearance based solely on sexual orientation," NBC News recalled; in 2014, "then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the federal government and contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

Kameny received an apology from John Berry, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who also presented the Theodore Roosevelt Award to the civil rights pioneer. Kameny died in 2011. He was celebrated with a Google doodle earlier this month.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.