Shunned to Celebrated: How LGBT Rights Have Evolved in the Federal Workplace

Acting OPM director Beth Cobert said in a recent blog post that her agency sets an example for how LGBT federal workers are and should be treated and reminded others that discriminating against a person because of his or her sexual orientation is illegal. This approach to federal employment was not always the case, however.

Acting Office of Personnel Management (OPM) director Beth Cobert writes in a recent blog post that the federal government sets an example for all employers with respect to how people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community should be treated by others.

“At OPM, we have been at the forefront of implementing Administration policy and court decisions that expand rights for the LGBT community,” wrote Cobert.

“Here at OPM, we are committed to doing everything possible to prevent any discrimination in our Federal workplaces. We have worked to make sure LGBT employees have the same rights and benefits as all Federal employees.”

Cobert went on to encourage everyone to take time in June to support LGBT people in honor of Pride Month, an event President Obama declared via proclamation on May 31.

Times have certainly changed on the issue in the federal government.

In the 1950s, Executive Order 10450 effectively banned homosexuals from working for the government, and a number were fired from their civil service jobs for “sexual perversion” as defined by the Executive Order.

In fact, in a rather famous case, Frank Kameny, a federal employee who worked as an astronomer, was fired from his job under the guidance of this Executive Order and was reportedly the first former federal employee to challenge his removal for being gay. OPM apologized to him for his removal in 2009.

In light of actions such as the president’s proclamation of Pride Month, the Education Department’s directive that public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom facilities of their choice, and Cobert’s blog post encouraging agencies to follow OPM as the model for preventing gender identity discrimination in the federal workplace, the federal government’s policies have changed dramatically since President Eisenhower issued his executive order in 1953.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.