Tuesday, January 10, 2017

John Kerry apologises to LGBT people

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology for the State Department’s years of open discrimination and persecution of LGBT people:
Throughout my career, including as Secretary of State, I have stood strongly in support of the LGBTI community, recognizing that respect for human rights must include respect for all individuals. LGBTI employees serve as proud members of the State Department and valued colleagues dedicated to the service of our country. For the past several years, the Department has pressed for the families of LGBTI officers to have the same protections overseas as families of other officers. In 2015, to further promote LGBTI rights throughout the world, I appointed the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.

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. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.
Kerry is referring to what has been called the “Lavender Scare” that was particularly evident in the 1950s and 1960s during which LGBT people were purged from the US Government. Much of this was done during the “Red Scare” purges, but it persisted longer.

This is merely the latest move in support of LGBT Americans by the Obama Administration, and the State Department specifically. It’s a welcome thing in itself, and a nice gesture as the Obama Administration prepares to leave office.

Today, too, Gallup released the results of a poll in which Americans assess progress under President Obama on a number of issues. On the “Situation for gays and lesbians”, 68% felt we made progress, 11% felt we stood still, and 16% felt we lost ground. Calling this “a Clear Bright Spot”, they commented:
Americans saw more progress on the situation for LGBT Americans than any other issue. Sixty-eight percent believe the situation for gays and lesbians improved under Obama, compared with 16% who say it lost ground. This likely reflects the shift toward majority approval of same-sex marriage during Obama's terms in office and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. [Link in the original]
I think Gallup’s assessment is correct, and a great many studies and polls now back up the assertion that acceptance in general for LGBT Americans has been growing, and also for marriage equality specifically.

My gut feeling—and it’s only that, because I know of no research to back this up—is that the 11% who felt things had “stood still” are probably on the Leftward side of Left, and the 16% who felt things went backwards are among the hardcore anti-LGBT people on the Right. I say this because overall, the average percentage of hardcore anti-LGBT people is a minority even among the rightwing, so 16% sounds like a reasonable guess for those who think that the USA should be anti-LGBT—to them, the USA has “lost ground” and “gone backward”.

Similarly, I think the reason that 11% say progress “stood still” is because of their ideology. In my view, it’s indisputable by any reasonable and rational measure that, overall, LGBT Americans have made progress. However, I can clearly see that there’s obviously still much work to be done, more progress to be made. The difference is that my own ideology doesn’t blind me to actual progress, while—in my personal experience—those on the Leftward side of Left take an “all or nothing” approach, so, since 110% of the necessary progress hasn’t been made, therefore, the USA has merely stood still. I quite obviously think that’s silly.

Secretary Kerry’s apology is probably the last positive thing for LGBT people we’ll see from the White House or federal departments for at least four years, given the open hostility to LGBT people by many of Don’s incoming gang, and virtually the entire Republican caucus controlling the US Congress. Next year, and every year for at least four, if Gallup polls on the same question, they’ll probably find a growing reversal of the “Made Progress” and “Lost Ground” percentages until 2020, when they will have completely reversed. So far, there’s been no absolutely reason for LGBT people to be optimistic about the next two, four, or more, years.

For now, though, this was a good and right thing to do.

For some background: Kerry apologizes for past LGBT discrimination at State DepartmentPolitico

Update: Gallup reported recently that "In US, More Adults Identifying as LGBT", which found that 10 million American adults identify as LGBT (4.1%), that LGBT millennials are up from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016, and that LGBT identification is higher among women.

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