(WB) Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley were among those who helped raise the Progress Pride flag at the State Department on Friday.

Sherman noted it is the first time “a flag recognizing the LGBTQI+ community will fly over State Department headquarters.” Sherman also pointed out the so-called “lavender scare” during which upwards of 1,000 State Department personnel lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation. 

“Our mission is to serve the interests of the United States and to promote American values around the world,” said Sherman. “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 as progress we have made, as we are celebrating today, we still have to 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 for fighting for LGBTQI+ people at home and everywhere,” added Sherman. “We raise this flag in recognition as well as 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.”

Abercrombie-Winstanley, who Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed as the State Department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer in April, in her remarks noted her two children are gay. Abercrombie-Winstanley also reiterated her commitment to help ensure the State Department’s workforce becomes more diverse.

“We lead the department’s efforts to ensure that the workforce of the United States State Department comes to look like the country which we lovingly represent,” she said. “We must finally ensure equitable career outcomes for all of our employees.”

Jeff Anderson, president of GLIFAA, an association of LGBT employees of Foreign Service agencies, opened the ceremony.

“Today we are flying this Progress Pride 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 their doors, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” he said. 

The ceremony took place less than five months after President Biden signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promote LGBT rights abroad. 

Blinken in April announced the State Department will once again allow U.S. diplomatic institutions to fly the Pride flag. State Department spokesperson Ned Price a few weeks later told the Washington Blade that decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the five priorities for the White House in its efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad. 

The White House on Friday announced it named Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBT advocacy group, as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT rights abroad. Stern is among those who attended the flag-raising ceremony.