The State Department came under not-so-friendly fire at former Romanian ambassador Michael Guest’s retirement dinner.
The openly gay man didn’t offer a cordial handshake to the Department, nor its supreme leader, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rather, Guest – a dean at the Foreign Service Institute – took the time to remind friends, colleagues and the press that the State Department continues to discriminate against gay officers’ long-term partners. Said Guest to his guests:
Most departing ambassadors use these events to talk about their successes…But I want to talk about my signal failure, the failure that in fact is causing me to leave the career that I love.
For the past three years, I’ve urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. Absolutely nothing has resulted from this. And so I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner – who is my family – and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary’s leadership and a shame for this institution and our country.
The equally critical NY Times editorial board explains that the State Department refuses to extend medical, security and evacuation benefits bestowed upon heterosexual partners. Internal estimates claim there are about 350 gay partners who are currently neglected. That number does not include, obviously, the adult children and elderly who live with foreign service officers.
The Times board writes:
Treating gay public servants by different standards than apply to everyone else is unacceptable, especially at a time when all American diplomats and military personnel are being called on to serve – sometimes repeatedly – in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The government should be doing everything in its power to retain its best and brightest, beginning with treating them equally.
The Times staffers should save their energy – we all know the State Department doesn’t read their gray pages.
Rt. Rev. Dr. RES
Congratulations, Mr. Ambassador
Way to go Guest! His reasons are exactly the same reasons why I did not pursue a career with the State Dept. in the Foreign Service after passing the exam. The more I learned, the more I realized how hard it was going to be in what can be an already difficult career abroad but also not having the full support system available for a partner on top of that. Even if my partner was in the Foreign Service with the same benefits, the State Dept. does not treat same-sex couples as “tandem” for assignments so one could end up in Angola and the other in China. I think the State Dept., like so many other government entities, is missing out on a great pool of applicants because of this inequitable treatment.
David in Tennessee
Thank you Mr. Guest!
In all fairness, my partner and I are both FSOs and the Department has been really good to us. They posted us together to Jerusalem and back to DC. And with the new constraints on the Department, even “official” tandems are neccessarily posted together.
That said, I quit my former career (which I loved) and joined the service because of the way Members of Household are treated.
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