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Shaheen Joins Chairman Menendez & SFRC Dems in Introducing the Department of State Inclusivity Act

** Legislation to build diversity at the Department through recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies; address and apologize for the Department’s and Congress’ role in the “Lavender Scare”; direct the Department to thoroughly report, document, and investigate sexual harassment and assault claims by employees **

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the entire Democratic bench of the Foreign Relations Committee in introducing the Department of State Inclusivity Act of 2021, new legislation to assess and bolster the State Department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. By requiring the Department to develop and strengthen recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies and mechanisms to grow a more diverse workforce, including through the establishment of the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer and the expansion of existing diversity initiatives, the legislation seeks to confront and rectify the Department’s well-documented shortcomings in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Our diplomatic corps exists to represent the U.S. overseas, and that representation should reflect the diversity of our nation. This bill aims to help the State Department become a true mirror of our society,” said Senator Shaheen. “I am also pleased that this legislation includes provisions to enact a stronger policy against sexual assault and harassment, which should not be tolerated at any level of government. I’ll continue to prioritize legislation that strengthens our diplomatic corps and invests in diversity initiatives to increase representation throughout our security structures.”

“The State Department’s long history of failure to cultivate a professional environment that empowers underrepresented and minority employees and celebrates the diversity of its workforce is entirely unacceptable. As I have said many times, diversity within the ranks of the State Department, at all levels, is both a moral and national security imperative, and the diversity of the American people is our greatest source of strength – we simply cannot afford to lead with anything less than that. To fully represent the broad and rich array of backgrounds of all Americans and to champion core American values abroad are of the utmost importance,” Chairman Menendez said. “Should the U.S. hope to continue to command positions of leadership on the world stage with legitimacy and to amplify the voices of those demanding important change, we must ensure that the doors of our national security bureaucracy are open to all who wish to serve, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, creed, or other historically underrepresented status. As the first Latino SFRC Chairman and as the highest ranking Latino in Congress, I am immensely proud to unveil this critical legislation in recognition of the fact that our ability to conduct robust diplomacy and project democratic ideals abroad is grounded in our championship of diversity, equity, and inclusion at home.”

Joining Shaheen & Chairman Menendez in cosponsoring the legislation were Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

In addition to recognizing the Department’s and Congress’ involvement in the “Lavender Scare,” the Department of State Inclusivity Act of 2021 establishes a Reconciliation Board to review grievances of former employees who were wrongfully terminated due to their alleged sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill also directs the Department to rigorously report, document, and investigate sexual harassment and assault claims made by employees, and to create a permanent exhibit on the “Lavender Scare” at the National Museum of American Diplomacy, expanding upon Senator Menendez’s 2021 letter pressing for the memorialization of the wrongful dismissal of at least 1,000 State Department personnel in the 1950s and 1960s due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Find a copy of the legislation HERE.

Find a section-by-section summary of the legislation HERE.