June 16, 2022

Castro, Cicilline, Titus Introduce the LOVE Act to Correct Injustices of the Lavender Scare and Protect Current and Future LGBTQI+ Diplomats

WASHINGTON – This week, Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), David Cicilline (RI-01) and Dina Titus (NV-01) introduced the Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration (LOVE) Act to correct historic injustices perpetrated against State Department employees because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. The bill would also require the State Department to establish an Advancement Board to address issues faced by LGBTQI+ diplomats and report on its actions to ensure that foreign countries recognize and accredit the spouses of same-sex diplomats.

As the Cold War began in the late 1940s, the State Department became increasingly concerned about the threat of communist and “subversive” infiltration into government service. In 1946, Congress passed legislation giving the State Department broad leeway to dismiss employees with perceived security risks, which included sexual orientation. Four years later, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy told a Senate subcommittee that the State Department had purged 91 known homosexual employees. This disclosure sparked multiple Congressional investigations, which were widely covered in the press. In 1953, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, barring homosexuals from working in federal service. Over the following decades, between 5,000 – 10,000 federal employees were dismissed from government service because of their perceived sexual orientation in a purge now known as the “Lavender Scare.”

“Today, as the United States confronts renewed threats to LGBTQI+ rights at home and abroad, we need to remember the far-reaching consequences of institutionalized homophobia,” said Rep. Castro. “The so-called “Lavender Scare” handed power to blackmailers and homophobes, stripped thousands of hard-working Americans of their jobs, and weakened our national security. As we celebrate Pride Month, I’m proud to introduce the LOVE Act, which is an important step forward to address the harms of the Lavender Scare and protect today’s State Department employees from discrimination.”

“For too long, LGBTQ+ individuals serving this country were persecuted and wrongfully terminated by our own government for who they are and who they love," said Rep. Cicilline. "As we work to correct the mistakes of the past and ensure equality and equity for those serving now, it’s long past time the government acknowledges and apologizes for the harm caused. We must ensure that all LGBTQ+ members of the diplomatic corps are given the full protections and benefits afforded to their colleagues and their families.”

“In the past, LGBTQI employees at the State Department were discriminated against and wrongfully terminated because of their perceived sexual orientation,” said Rep. Titus. “The LOVE Act would correct the records of the approximately 1,000 individuals who were fired during the ‘Lavender Scare’ and address continuing issues that LGBTQI diplomats face. Our government should acknowledge this dreadful practice, apologize to those who were harmed, and do everything we can to support all of those serving in the State Department today.” 

"The LOVE Act is a necessary corrective to the long history of bureaucratic violence against LGBTQIA+ Americans. The accountability that comes from investigating the harm done to our fellow Americans is critical to the past as well as to our future,” said Luke Schleusener, President of Out in National Security. “It is important that the Love Act draws a sharp line under this chapter in our history and ensures that we will remember its victims. We welcome the creation of an independent board to help the State Department chart a better course in the future as it works to recruit, retain, and promote LGBTQIA+ Americans. We are grateful for the work of GLIFAA, LGBTQIA+ activists, scholars, civil society groups that have brought this legislation about, and the victims of the Lavender Scare who stood up and spoke out against the government that worked to harm them."

“When I started working at the State Department, gay foreign service officers lost our security clearances and our jobs just for being ourselves. It’s time to give LGBTQ diplomats the rights we deserve, and this bill will bring us closer to true equality,” said Ted Osius, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council and former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.

“During Pride month we are reminded that our U.S. diplomats are standing proudly for equality for LGBTQI individuals around the world. But this bill also reminds us that our government has an historic debt to pay to our LGBTQI diplomats, especially those whose lives were upended in the lavender scare. And we have an ongoing obligation to our current LGBTQI diplomats who are not being recognized by foreign countries that refuse to extend diplomatic status to our LGBTQI families abroad,” said Mark Bromley, Co-Chair of the Council for Global Equality.

Specifically, the LOVE Act would:

  • Establish an independent commission to review the records of State Department employees who were fired for their real or perceived sexual orientation between approximately 1950 and up to the early 1990s, when the last explicit restrictions on LGBTQI employment at the State Department were lifted.
  • Correct the employment records of Lavender Scare victims to acknowledge their unjust termination.
  • Require the State Department to collect the oral and written histories of Lavender Scare victims and their survivors to maintain an official record of the persecution they faced.
  • Offer a formal apology from Congress for its responsibility in encouraging the Lavender Scare.
  • Establish a permanent exhibit on the Lavender Scare at the State Department’s Museum of American Diplomacy.
  • Require the State Department to submit a report to Congress on countries currently not issuing spousal visas to spouses of Foreign Service personnel due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Establish an Advancement Board at the State Department to address issues faced by LGBTQI Foreign Service personnel and their families.

To read the full text of the LOVE Act, click here.

The LOVE Act is endorsed by the Council for Global Equality, Human Rights Campaign, Foreign Policy for America, and Out in National Security. The co-sponsors of the LOVE Act thank glifaa for their leadership and advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQI+ community at the State Department and other foreign affairs agencies.