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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 That policy was repealed by President Obama in 2010.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.

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Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

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Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

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Pop Culture

Man tries to correct a female golfer's swing, having no idea she's actually a pro

“My hope is that he comes across this video and it keeps him up at night."

Representative Image from Canva

A man tried to tell a pro golfer she was swing too slow.

We’re all probably familiar with the term “mansplaining,” when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing way. Often, this comes in the form of a man explaining a subject to a woman that she already knows on an expert level. The female neuroscientist who was told by a man that she should read a research paper she actually wrote comes to mind.

Recently the next-level mansplaining was caught in the wild. Well, at a golf driving range anyway.

Georgia Ball, a professional golfer and coach who’s racked up over 3 million likes on TikTok for all her tips and tricks of the sport, was minding her own business while practicing a swing change.

It takes all of two seconds on Google to see that when it comes to incorporating a swing change, golfers need to swing slower, at 50-75% their normal speed…which is what Ball was doing.

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The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

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