Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday apologized for the State Department’s past discrimination against LGBTI employees, calling for a renewed commitment to “diversity and inclusion for all our employees.”
“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,” Kerry said in a statement. “These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.”
The State Department head said he appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons as part of the Obama administration’s effort to promote LGBTI rights globally.
This effort has come under scrutiny by some individuals associated with the next administration. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and an ally of Donald Trump, has called for Kerry’s successor to reverse the Obama administration’s effort to “export the LGBTQ agenda globally” through the State Department.
The employer of Trump’s secretary of state nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has faced scrutiny in the past for its record on gay rights. The oil giant eliminated a policy preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1999. It only reintroduced protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2015, after President Barack Obama issued an executive order requiring companies that contract with the federal government to protect LGBTI workers from discrimination.