After meeting this week with the gays of the State Department, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton now has in her hands a letter outlining all the things openly gay Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) and her supporters want changed for the agency’s federal employees. The full list follows, but here’s the real news first: Clinton says she’s on board with it.
Co-signed by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis), Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), the letter reads:
The lack of equitable treatment could force dedicated, intelligent, & needed FSOs (Foreign Service Officers) & officials to make an unfortunate choice between serving their country & protecting their families. As you noted during the question & answer session of your Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing, many other nations now extend training, protection, & benefits to the partners of LGBT employees. Further, the State Department’s past inattention to these disparities places it below parity with the best employment practices used in the private sector, where the majority of Fortune 500 companies extend employee benefit programs to cover the domestic partners. Without remedying these inequities, the State Department may fail to attract and retain qualified personnel.
And asks for:
• Inclusion in travel orders for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Access to training, including all language classes, area studies, & embassy effectiveness classes for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Emergency evacuation & medevac from post when necessary for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Access to post health units for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Visa support for same-sex domestic partners accompanying FSOs to overseas postings, & for same-sex foreign-born domestic partners accompanying FSOs to postings in Washington or elsewhere in the U.S.
• Preferential status for employment at post comparable to that enjoyed by Eligible Family Members (EFMs) for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
Responded Clinton: “You know, this is an issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out, all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad. So I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide. So I have asked for a staff review of current policies, especially those that are set forth in State Department regulations, and recommendations and a strategy for making effective changes.”
But it’s all not sunshine and cupcakes. Reports On Top: “Clinton also reminded employees that gay spouses, even if legally wed, are not recognized by federal law under federal DOMA which defines marriage as a heterosexual union for government agencies. That law, signed by President Bill Clinton, she said, greatly curtailed her authority on this issue.”
Meanwhile, and maybe we’re not smart enough to understand these things, but where was Barney Frank’s signature on this?
Barney Frank is gay, but he isn’t on any relevant committees. He’s on finance.
The others are on the Senate Intel (Feingold and Wyden), the House crime/terrorism/homeland security (Baldwin), and Foreign Affiars (Ros-Lehtinen). That why they signed it and he didn’t.
Hill’s right, though. she probably can’t implement most of these (great) suggestions because of DOMA.
DOMA does not apply because what we at GLIFAA are asking her to do is designate same-sex partners as Eligible Family Members. That designation is not exclusive to spouses and in fact includes minor children, dependent parents, and in some case, dependent adult children. Making same-sex partners EFMs would then grant them all the rights, priviledges and protections mentioned in Rep. Baldwin’s letter. We have worked with her and attorneys closely to deliniate what fixes are regulatory (the ones in the letter) and which require legislative fixes.
As a diplomat serving overseas, with a non-American (Middle Eastern, in fact – we really hit the jackpot!) same-sex partner, I can tell you that the decisions that the inequitable treatment we receive are wrenching. We’ve already had to leave one post because the Embassy would not lobby with the host government to find a way for my partner to get a visa (and we weren’t even seeking the ability to work legally in-country, a whole ‘nother kettle of fish in many places), and we are constantly having to deal with local insurance, health-care access, and other issues because he doesn’t have access to Embassy services and facilities.
The bottom line: the government, in return for my service overseas, will reimburse me for the at least part of the cost of flying our dog from post to post – but not for evacuating my partner if, God forbid, there were to be a terrorist attack, revolution, or natural disaster at our post.
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