Why it matters that John Kerry spoke up about the 'lavender scare' of the 1950s.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which began a witch hunt for gay and lesbian employees in the federal government; it became known as the "lavender scare."

The order called for an investigation into federal employees and delineated specific qualities to look for that could possibly threaten national security — including drug addiction, criminal behavior, and "sexual perversion."

Photo by M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Getty Images.


As a result, thousands of gay and lesbian employees were forced out of their jobs and, often, into the public spotlight at a time when being outed could seriously endanger their lives.

Remarkably, the order stayed in effect until 1975 — when it was ended by the U.S. Civil Service Commission.

Further steps have been taken to end discrimination against LGBTQ people at the federal level, including the highly controversial and deeply problematic "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which ended an outright ban on LGBTQ people serving in the military — provided they kept their sexual orientation and gender identity a secret. That policy was repealed by President Obama in 2010.

When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she helped move the needle even further, issuing protections and equal rights measures for the transgender community. In just over 60 years, we've gone from actively persecuting LGBTQ government employees to passing marriage equality on a federal level.

But the memory of those discriminatory practices remains  — not just on paper, but in the hearts and minds of people who were directly affected by them.

In November 2016, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to apologize for the lavender scare on behalf of the U.S. government.

John Kerry (left) and Ben Cardin (right). Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

"As you approach your final months of service as our nation's chief diplomat," Cardin wrote in the letter, "I ask that you take steps to remedy a deep stain on our national history and that of the State Department itself: The legacy of the so-called 'lavender scare' in which hundreds of State Department employees were dismissed from service because of their perceived sexual orientation."

Kerry has long championed LGBTQ rights and even created the State Department's first ever "Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons" position.

He responded by doing exactly what Cardin's letter called on him to do.

On Jan. 9, 2017, John Kerry apologized on behalf of the State Department for decades of discrimination against LGBTQ employees.

"These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today," said Kerry in a statement. "On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past."

The timing of the apology is not without significance. As Cardin pointed out in his letter, Kerry has mere months (now days) left in his post as Secretary of State, at which point ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson is expected to take over the role in PEOTUS Donald Trump's administration.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

It remains to be seen what Trump and Tillerson will bring to federal policies, but LGBTQ advocates are understandably worried about a resurgence of lavender scare-era policies.

Tillerson took over as CEO of ExxonMobile the year that it received a 0% from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, based largely on its treatment of LGBTQ employees.

Since then, ExxonMobile has slowly made improvements — but most of them occurred after changes in federal policy mandated them. For instance, the company reintroduced health coverage for same-sex spouses of employees, but only after the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that same-sex couples should be considered legally married.

Kerry's apology doesn't make it impossible for the new State Department to regress back into discriminatory policies, but it would make it that much harder.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

A formal public apology from the United States government is significant because it's a highly visible declaration of values. Any policy introduced to the contrary would have to, at the very least, go up against a firm on-record statement that the United States government stands against LGBTQ discrimination.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

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Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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