Jeff Merkley

06/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2024 18:03

During Pride Month, Wyden, Merkley Join Resolution Apologizing for Government Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Civil Servants, Servicemembers

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are co-sponsoring a Senate resolution that acknowledges and apologizes for the mistreatment of and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals who have served the nation in the uniformed services, as civil servants, or in the Foreign Service.

"Even as millions celebrate Pride Month, LGBTQ+ Americans are burdened by systemic discrimination that has prevented them from being recognized for their service to this country," Wyden said. "LGBTQ+ civil servants and servicemembers should be honored for their sacrifices. This apology is long overdue."

"America is at its best when everyone can live as their authentic self-no matter who they are or whom they love," said Senator Merkley, author of the Equality Act. "For decades, our government mistreated and discriminated against LGBTQ+ civil servants, Foreign Service Officers, and members of our military simply because of who they are, a shameful wrong that we need to work together to correct. This resolution is a critical step towards acknowledging and repairing the harm done to LGBTQ+ Americans who have served our country, and we must continue to work to build a more just and equal society."

The United States has a long and terrible history of discrimination against LGBTQ+ servicemembers and other federal employees. Beginning in the early 1940s and continuing through the 1990s, a period historians label the "Lavender Scare," thousands of federal employees were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. At least 100,000 LGBTQ+ military service members were forced out of the Armed Forces between World War II and 2011, most recently due to the 1994-2011 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, which prohibited servicemembers from disclosing their sexual orientation.

In 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, officially prohibiting the federal government and federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2023, the Department of Defense announced it would review the service records of individuals discharged due to their sexual orientation to assess whether to grant them discharge upgrades. While these are significant steps in the right direction, there is still more work to be done to reduce the harm inflicted by decades of discriminatory policies.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the resolution led by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, (D-Va.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.).

Full text of the resolution is here.

A web version of this release is here.

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