Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Domestic partners discriminated against

This event took place today at the Center for American Progress and was covered by Talk Radio News.

Domestic partners discriminated against

The fact that the U.S. government covers the travel cost of a family pet yet does not cover that of a domestic partner was brought up at a discussion held at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Unlike spouses of married foreign service personnel, domestic partners are ineligible for medical benefits, life insurance and are not even permitted to attend a two-day safety training course which the State Department offers to spouses.

Digger comments:
Members of Household are now allowed to attend that course, the Security Overseas Seminar.

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, spoke during the discussion, recollecting when James Hormel became the first openly gay ambassador appointed by President Clinton to Luxembourg in 1999. Albright also considered former ambassador Michael Guest’s resignation as ambassador to Romania a big loss to U.S. foreign policy. Guest resigned from his post because his partner was unable to receive the same benefits that spouses of his straight colleagues were offered. Albright wondered how America could expect itself to be a leader in promoting civil liberties when it still discriminated its own people.

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), also speaking at the discussion, pointed out that to an employee, health benefits are second in importance only to salary. Smith described how, in order to keep the best and brightest Americans working in the public sector, equal health benefits should be afforded to all. Also, Smith discussed his theory that a key to reducing health care costs is to widen the pool of those eligible, even if the “paradigms of families get shifted”.

Digger comments:
I was at this event today. I was impressed with all of the speakers, though naturally I would have preferred that Senator Gordon Smith also support gay marriage, which he does not. He is a strong proponent of religious freedom (he sponsored the Smith Amendment, which requires Russia to prove it is not disciminiating against religious groups there before it can get any money from the U.S.), and yet he supports denying religions the right to decide what constitutes a marriage. My church, United Church of Christ, endorses and performs same-sex marriage. M and I were married in our church.

At the presentation, the VP of the center said that there are an estimated 216,000 GLBT folks in the Federal government. And John Podesta, the president of the center and Clinton's former chief of staff, said the cost to give benefits to us would be about $260 million over ten years, a drop in the bucket compared with the total federal budget. Eighty-seven state and local governments already offer benefits to same-sex partners.

Both Baldwin and Smith said they did not expect to put the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act before Congress until the next administration because they feared a presidential veto.

Ambassador Guest finished off the event. He said of his retirement: "the career I loved at first sight had come into conflict with the partner who I had also loved at first sight." He said he had expected more of Secretary Rice and that "this is still discriminatary and it deserves no place in the institution the Secretary leads."

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