Secretary of State John Kerry has formally apologized to past state department employees who were fired or discriminated against for their sexual orientation during the Lavender Scare, a period in the 1950s and 1960s in which gays and lesbians were ousted from U.S. government positions.

According to Politico, this is the latest step taken by the Obama administration to promote more inclusion of the LGBT community in its ranks. 

“In the past — as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades — 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,” Kerry said in his statement. “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,” he added. 

Many of the people fired during the Lavender Scare on the grounds that their sexual orientation could be used against them as blackmail material. 

“Secretary Kerry’s acknowledgement of historic discrimination against LGBT employees at the State Department comes as GLIFAA celebrates its 25th anniversary,” Noted a spokesperson of GLIFAA, an organization representing LGBT employees of the state department. 

“We wish more of our LGBT colleagues targeted by discrimination were alive to see the progress our country has made, and we celebrate their legacy by continuing to work for full equality for LGBT employees of foreign service agencies,” the spokesperson continued.

Many of Obama’s pro-LGBT policies have centered around the state department, and the Obama administration has continued its effort to increase the diversity of the federal workforce, going as far as arguing diversity was important for U.S. national security.