Of­fi­cer quit gov­ern­ment job to live openly gay

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SUNDAY LEISURE -

IN JULY 1975, the US Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion re­versed long­stand­ing poli­cies that ef­fec­tively pro­hib­ited gays from work­ing in the gov­ern­ment.

There had been no ex­plicit ban but hun­dreds of men and women over the decades had seen their ca­reers ru­ined on the grounds of “im­moral con­duct” at the first hint of their sex­ual iden­ti­ties be­ing ex­posed.

The rul­ing, which fol­lowed a court de­ci­sion did not cover such agen­cies as the Se­cret Ser­vice, the FBI or the For­eign Ser­vice, which are ad­min­is­tered sep­a­rately. Gays in those bu­reaus were be­lieved to be more sus­cep­ti­ble to black­mail – se­cu­rity risks, es­pe­cially in an era when psy­chi­a­trists had only just de­clas­si­fied ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a men­tal dis­or­der.

Three months after the rul­ing, amid his in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult strug­gle with be­ing forced to muf­fle his sex­u­al­ity, 35-year-old For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cer Tom Gal­lagher at­tended a Wash­ing­ton gath­er­ing of the Gay Ac­tivist Al­liance.

He served on a panel called “Gays as Fed­eral Em­ploy­ees”.

The panel proved to be what Gal­lagher, who died on July 8 at 77, called his “com­ing out party”.

“I didn’t want to lie and hide any more,” he said in 2012.

“While I was not in­ter­ested in pub­lic­ity, on the other hand, if my ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity be­came an is­sue in any re­la­tion­ship for the rest of my life, I wanted to be hon­est about it and not lie.”

At the same time, he added, “I was ab­so­lutely scared to death” by ap­pear­ing in pub­lic as a gay man at a time when a stigma was still very much at­tached to ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity in the pub­lic realm.

“I was ter­ri­fied of find­ing my pic­ture on the front page of Time.

“I was con­cerned for my mother, a con­ser­va­tive Catholic, who would have been mor­ti­fied if she found her­self the ob­ject of pity at (her church) be­cause her son had hu­mil­i­ated her in the na­tional me­dia. I also didn’t want to lose my job. I had no other ca­reer prospects, and very lit­tle money in the bank.”

Nev­er­the­less, when he was asked as a pan­el­list what his col­leagues at the State Depart­ment said about his sex­u­al­ity, he said no one knew.

“‘I guess this is a com­ing out party,’ I said, and the whole room stood up to give me my first stand­ing ova­tion,” he re­called. “Great fun; but when I went home that evening I was still scared wit­less.”

After a decade-long diplo­matic ca­reer that took him from Saudi Ara­bia to Nige­ria to Ecuador, Gal­lagher left the State Depart­ment in 1976 rather than sub­mit to what he imag­ined would be an ar­du­ous and hu­mil­i­at­ing se­cu­rity-clear­ance re­newal.

He moved to LA and later San Fran­cisco to pur­sue a ca­reer as a so­cial worker. He re­turned to the State Depart­ment in 1994, a year be­fore pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der lift­ing the Cold War-era prac­tice of pre­vent­ing gays from ob­tain­ing se­cu­rity clear­ances.

In 2012, then sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Clin­ton sin­gled out Gal­lagher as an ex­am­ple of the progress made for gay State Depart­ment em­ploy­ees. “He risked his ca­reer when he came out and be­came the first openly gay For­eign Ser­vice of­fi­cer,” Clin­ton said – Wash­ing­ton Post

Tom Gal­lagher

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