Clinton wins praise from State Dept. gays
(Washington) A group that represents LGBT workers in the federal government is welcoming a commitment by Hillary Clinton that if confirmed as Secretary of State she would review policies to see what could be changed to assist gay personnel at the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other foreign affairs agencies.
During questioning at her confirmation hearing, Clinton was asked by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) about regulations that deny the same-sex partners of LGBT personnel the same rights as heterosexual spouses.
In saying she would review existing policies, Clinton noted that many foreign countries have already changed the policies to provide equal treatment for gay and lesbian staff of foreign affairs agencies.
The employee affinity group for the State Department, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, said in a statement that it plans to present the incoming Secretary of State with a letter signed by over 2,000 current and former employees of the Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies requesting fairness for LBGT employees.
GLIFAA board members also met with members of President-elect Obama’s transition team at the Department of State in December.
GLIFAA President Michelle Schohn noted that gay U.S. diplomats and aid workers serve overseas “in some of the most dangerous locations, but continue to be denied equal treatment for their families.”
U.S. Foreign Service personnel – as well as civil service and contract employees – are required to serve a large portion of their careers at U.S. embassies and missions overseas. However, the partners of gay personnel receive no assistance while accompanying employees on these mandatory assignments.
Among many other obstacles, gay partners lack access to affordable health insurance coverage and resources for moving abroad.
During overseas tours, employees’ partners do not receive assistance in obtaining a visa and lack access to employment opportunities, emergency evacuation, and embassy medical units, all afforded to married, heterosexual couples.
Former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, who resigned in protest in 2007, was the highest profile Foreign Service Officer to leave the State Department due to its failure to redress inequalities in the treatment between heterosexual spouses and same-sex partners.
Guest became the first openly gay ambassador confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2001 and earned a number of awards and accolades during his 26 years in the Foreign Service.