MR ANDERSON: Madam Deputy Secretary, Madam Ambassador, fellow glifaa members, colleagues and friends, thank you all for being here today on this historic occasion. Today we are flying this Progress flag for many people, and in doing so we are remembering and honoring those who serve and have served our country with honor and dignity, and we are inspiring a new generation of public servants to enter those doors no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Today we fly the flag for Andrew Ference and the numerous other colleagues who decades ago took their own lives when State Department investigators confronted them, harassed them, and intimidated them to disclose their sexual orientation and even out their friends and co-workers.
We also fly the flag today for Jan Krc and the thousands of other employees who, despite their commitment to public service and despite their commitment to defending our nation, were fired simply because they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
In fact, on a summer day in 1965, some of those fired employees protested just right here where we’re standing, while inside the building then Secretary of State Dean Rusk told a bunch of laughing journalists, quote, “The policy of the department is that we do not employ homosexuals knowingly. And if we discover homosexuals in the department, we discharge them.”
Today we also fly the flag for David, for Michelle, for Robin, for Bob, for Jeremy and the countless other LGBTQI employees and allies who have fought from inside those walls to change policy and unlock those doors so that people like me and thousands of others can serve the country we love with pride, with dignity, and with respect.
And lastly, we also can’t forget when our beloved red, white, and blue flies above that rainbow of colors it sends an important message to the world that the United States is a country that values diversity, values equity, and values inclusion. It helps LGBTQI people around the globe know they are not alone even if they live under regimes that hunt, arrest, torture, and kill them.
Thank you again for being here today, and especially to all those who helped make today possible, including my good friend and fellow glifaa board member Shalom Constantino, who is somewhere out here. And especially a big thanks to department leaders for their commitment to building a more inclusive and diverse State Department.
And with that, I would like to turn over – turn the podium over to someone who has been instrumental to those efforts, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Good afternoon, everybody. On behalf of President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary Blinken, and every one of my colleagues at the Department of State worldwide, welcome.
It is truly, truly an honor to preside over this ceremony. I want to thank Jeff and Shalom and all of the glifaa members and State Department staff who worked so, so hard for so way too long to make this day possible. And I am so proud to welcome Jessica Stern, who was just announced by the President as the United States Special Envoy for Human Rights of LGBTQI+ persons just today. (Applause.) We are so happy to have you and your partner Lynn  Davis here with us today for this event.
Although many of our embassies and consulates have displayed the Pride and Progress flags overseas, today is the first time a flag recognizing the LGBTQI+ community will fly over State Department headquarters.
Six years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry. It was a beautiful summer day much like this one. The District of Columbia and communities across the country all but exploded with joy and love. By nightfall, the White House was bathed in rainbow lights – the colors of Pride. But there was sadness too underneath the excitement that it took so long, that activists had to fight so very hard, that so many people didn’t live to see their relationships validated by the highest court in the land. Today’s ceremony is another joyful celebration, but it also gives us opportunity to reflect on the past and to recommit ourselves to supporting diversity, inclusion, and the rights of all people everywhere in the world.
In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist “red scare” was accompanied by the so-called “lavender scare.” McCarthy and other government leaders claimed that gay and lesbian workers couldn’t be trusted to serve the United States and that they were of, quote, “dubious moral character,” unquote. Across the federal government, countless public servants were investigated, punished, and oftentimes fired because of who they were and who they loved. And sadly, the State Department was especially aggressive in persecuting our own.
The State Department started investigating and firing LGBTQI+ employees as early as the 1940s and all the way up to the early 1990s. All the way up to the early 1990s, Foreign Service officers could find their security clearances under review if they were known to be gay or, even in one case, if they subscribed to The Village Voice.
Our mission is to serve the interests of the United States and to promote American values around the world. Our ability to stand up for human rights, for democracy, and for justice overseas is utterly dependent on the actions we take here at home. As much progress as we have made as we are celebrating today, we still have work to do to guarantee equality for LGBTQI+ people in our workplaces, in our schools, at the Department of State, in our government, and in our society.
We raise the Progress flag today as a signal to people everywhere that the United States is firmly committed to doing that work and to fighting for LGBTQI+ people at home and everywhere. And we raise this flag in recognition as well of the countless Civil Service and Foreign Service officers, locally employed staff, contractors, even us appointees – past and present – who have worked to change the State Department, the country, and the world for the better.
Now I want to welcome a new colleague to the State Department that represents the commitment that Secretary Blinken has made to diversity and inclusion, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, to say a few words before I return for this wonderful event to raise this flag.
(Cheers and applause.)
AMBASSADOR ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Good afternoon. What a gorgeous day to be doing this. We recall in his June 1 proclamation, President Biden called upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQIA community. As we welcome our new colleague, Jessica Stern, as a special envoy for LGBTQI rights abroad, we celebrate the great diversity of the American people. And we stand in solidarity as they wave their flags of progress high.
President Biden speaks for America when he states our strength is found in our diversity. America is stronger at home and around the world when we are inclusive. As one of his early acts in office, Secretary Blinken created my position, the department’s first ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and my office reports directly to the Secretary. We lead the department’s efforts to ensure that the workforce of the United States State Department comes to look like the country we lovingly represent.
We must finally ensure equitable career outcomes for all of our employees. Our priority will be women and minorities who are under-represented department wide, particularly in the senior ranks.
This means we confront the mistakes of the past head on, and we do this to make for a better present and future national security workforce. As Secretary Blinken said, creating a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible department is not the work of any one person or any one office; it is the job of every single State Department employee to step up, stand up, and ensure that the department leverages the talent and potential of us all in support of U.S. foreign policy. And we are ready to do just that.
In April, for example, the department shared the guidance regarding transgender employees and management’s rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Importantly, members of glifaa were consulted on drafting the guidance. We need LGBTQI+ persons and allies in our ranks to change the culture in the department, to change how we engage in the foreign environment, and it’s clear we won’t have to do it alone.
My team and I will continue to work in consultation with employee affinity groups like glifaa and their allies to make policies that reflect the true needs of the department and will strengthen the community.
My own allyship began before I knew that I was going to be the mother of two gay children. Having my own experiences as a senior career diplomat, an African American woman, inside this institution has given me firsthand experience not only of the discrimination in the workplace and our ability, however, it has given me an experience of our ability to successfully combat it.
My legacy in this role is to lead the Secretary’s efforts to ensure we all feel valued and included, now and for generations to come. Thank you, Madam Deputy Secretary. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So I want to ask my colleagues to join me as we raise the Progress flag. Beautiful.
(The Progress flag was raised.)
(Cheers and applause.)
MR ANDERSON: Thank you all for coming. That concludes today’s ceremony. Happy Pride and have a good weekend.