News (USA)

Lesbian senator issues historic resolution apologizing for governmental anti-LGBTQ+ abuses

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) at the enrollment ceremony for the Respect For Marriage Act
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) at the enrollment ceremony for the Respect For Marriage Act at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 08, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images. Photo: Getty Images

A wide-ranging apology for the federal government’s historical mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people is in the works.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first out member of the upper congressional chamber, along with onetime vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), introduced a resolution acknowledging and apologizing for the discrimination and mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. military, Foreign Service, and civil service.

“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 said in a statement announcing the resolution. “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.”

The resolution addresses the notorious 1950s “Lavender Scare” purge of LGBTQ+ individuals in the federal government, as well as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era when tens of thousands of service members were thrown out of the military due to their perceived gay, lesbian, or bi orientation.

From the 1940s through the 1990s, thousands of LGBTQ+ federal employees in the military, at the State Department, and throughout the federal government were purged from their jobs as anti-communist paranoia and the concurrent Red Scare raged and swept potential “security risks” out of government positions.

In 1994, the Clinton administration’s Defense Department policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was forged as a compromise to enable LGBTQ+ people to serve, but only in silence. Despite the trade-off, service members were dishonorably discharged by the thousands, adding to a total of more than 100,000 LGBTQ+ military members forced from the armed services between 1941 and 2011, when President Barack Obama ended the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

In 2014, Obama went further with an executive order officially prohibiting the federal government and federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of LGBTQ+ identity.

Last year, the Department of Defense announced that it would undertake a proactive review of the service records of individuals discharged under the policy to assess whether to grant them discharge upgrades.

“LGBT civil servants, foreign service officers, and servicemembers have made countless sacrifices and contributions to our country and national security,” said Sen. Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.

“Despite this, our government has subjected them to decades of [discrimination], invasive investigations, and wrongful termination because of who they are or who they love. This Pride Month, I’m proud to lead this resolution alongside Senator Baldwin to reaffirm our commitment to righting our past wrongs and fighting for equality for all LGBT Americans,” he added.

Baldwin and Kaine have a history together addressing LGBTQ+ rights and issues. Last year, they introduced the historic Equality Act, comprehensive legislation to protect Americans from discrimination based on their LGBTQ+ identities. In 2022, the pair helped pass the Respect for Marriage Act, ensuring that marriage equality and interracial marriages are recognized by every U.S. state.

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