June 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
State Department declines to comment on ‘lavender scare’ bill

The State Department on June 23, 2017, declined to comment on a bill that would, among other things, allow personnel who were fired during the so-called “lavender scare” to expunge their employment records. (Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The State Department on Friday declined to comment on a bill that would allow personnel who were fired during the so-called “lavender scare” to have their employment records expunged.

“We don’t comment on pending legislation,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade in an email.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on Thursday introduced the Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration Act of 2017, which is also known as the LOVE Act.

More than 1,000 people who the State Department dismissed for “alleged homosexuality” were forced out during then-U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.)’s anti-Communist crusade in the 1950s.

Roy Cohn, a lawyer who later represented and mentored President Trump as his legal counsel, played a prominent role in McCarthy’s efforts to identify and remove suspected Communists from the federal government. Cohn, who was widely rumored to be gay, died from AIDS-related complications in 1986.

Cardin’s bill would detail the history of the “lavender scare” and require the U.S. Foreign Service and the State Department to “review all employee terminations that occurred” after Jan. 1, 1950, to “determine who was wrongfully terminated owning to their sexual orientation, whether real or perceived.” The measure would create a “reconciliation board” that would allow anyone who was forced out of the agency during the “lavender scare” or their families to request an expungement of their employment records.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in January formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired during the “lavender scare.” Cardin’s bill would require Congress to issue a similar apology and mandate the State Department to create a permanent “lavender scare” exhibit in the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

The measure would require Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to submit a report to Congress on countries that do not issue visas to same-sex spouses of Foreign Service personnel who are stationed overseas. It would also require the State Department to create an Advancement Board that would address “issues faced by LGBTQI Foreign Service employees and their families.”

Tillerson on June 7 issued a statement that acknowledges Pride month. Embassies and consulates received guidance from the State Department that allowed them to recognize Pride month.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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