Kerry Apologizes to LGBTs on Behalf of State Dept.; Will Obama Follow Suit?

By Susan Jones | January 10, 2017 | 5:51 AM EST

The Obama White House was lit up with rainbow colors on June 26, 2015 to mark the Supreme Court's ruling that the U.S. Constitution grants homosexuals the right to marry in all 50 states. (AP File Photo)

( - President Barack Obama is "proud of his record" in standing up for LGBT rights, but there are no plans at the moment for him to apologize for previous presidents who viewed homosexuality as abnormal or perverted, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

"I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm not aware that -- that there's anything that's being cooked up to officially respond to that at this point," Earnest said.

The topic arose after Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Monday, apologizing for the State Department's past treatment of "LGBTI" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people:

"In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades," Kerry wrote, "the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today.

"On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community," Kerry concluded.

A reporter at the White House asked Josh Earnest why Kerry's apology came so late, in the final days of the Obama administration:

Earnest said he has no idea what led to the timing of Kerry's statement.

"Obviously, it does send, I think, a pretty strong message to all Americans that people should be judged, not based on who they love or who they are, but based on their capacity to serve this country and their willingness to set aside their own interests to go and represent the United States of America overseas.

"And there are many Americans who have embraced that patriotic duty, and certainly, everybody who is qualified to do so should be able to do so and shouldn't be discriminated against just because of who they love or who they are," Earnest said.

The reporter followed up, citing two examples of past discrimination by the federal government: "President Dwight Eisenhower in an executive order declared homosexuality a sexual perversion and an issue of national security," the reporter said. "In 1951, the FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, ordered all FBI agents to identify homosexuals working in the federal government. Does the president owe the LGBT community an apology for this past discrimination?"

Earnest said President Obama has "worked hard to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans, and he's proud of his record."

"Some of that is certainly the consequence of the profound changes in our society that have taken place under a rather short period of time, in a way that has made America a more perfect union. The president has certainly welcomed those developments. The president has certainly encouraged those developments. And, you know, based on some of the statements that we've seen from advocates for this community, that the president has played an important role in advancing those developments.

"So he's certainly proud of his record on these issues. But with regard to an apology for the behavior or policies or statements of previous presidents, that's something we'll have to take a look at."

The reporter asked Earnest, "So you would not rule that out?"

"I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm not aware that -- that there's anything that's being cooked up to officially respond to that at this point," Earnest said.