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 That policy was repealed by President Obama in 2010.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.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Woman shares breakup letter to foot before amputation.

It's amazing how even the most harrowing of decisions can be transformed with a good sense of humor.

After suffering an ankle injury during a horseback riding accident at age 13, Jo Beckwith had exhausted all other options to escape from the lingering pain from the fracture, leaving her with no better choice than to amputate.

She could have buckled under the weight of such life-altering news (no one would blame her). Instead, Jo threw a farewell party the day before her surgery. Some of her friends showed up to write a goodbye letter, fun and lighthearted messages scribbled directly onto the ankle.

@footlessjo

The messages that came into #amputation with me! #funny #therapeutic #disability #amputee #fypシ


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Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."