Thursday, January 15, 2009

More coverage of Secretary-designate Clinton's comments

This piece in on the Human Rights Campaign's website. There is also a video at the bottom of the piece of Amb. Guest speaking about his experience.

State Department LGBT group welcomes Clinton support for reviewing unequal policies

Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), the U.S. State Department LGBT employee group, said yesterday that they are pleased with Secretary of State-nominee Hillary Clinton's statement during her confirmation hearing yesterday that she would review policies to see what could be changed to assist LGBT personnel at the Department of State, USAID, and other foreign affairs agencies.

In response to a question from Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Russ Feingold (D-WI), Senator Clinton noted that many foreign countries have already changed the policies to provide equal treatment for gay and lesbian staff of foreign affairs agencies. Senator Feingold specifically referenced regulations that deny the same-sex partners of LGBT personnel the same rights as heterosexual spouses.

Here's more from GLIFAA's statement:

GLIFAA plans to present to the incoming Secretary of State 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 welcomed Senator Clinton's acknowledgement that fairer policies serve as good business sense. Schohn noted that LGBT 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. She expressed hope that the incoming Administration would work quickly to implement overdue reforms.

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 LGBT personnel currently receive no assistance while accompanying employees on these mandatory assignments. Among many other obstacles, LGBT 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.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, the first openly gay ambassador, resigned from the State Department in 2007 after 26 years of service to protest of the department's failure to correct policies that discriminate against LGBT employees.

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