Monday, May 04, 2009

100 Days In, Still No Place At The Table

I have a confession. This blog suffers when I am thinking of leaving the Department and going back to archaeology. And I think of leaving the Department mostly when I am frustrated by the excruciatingly slow progress the Department makes in terms of addressing the inequities facing LGBT Foreign Service families.

This is made worse, not better, by having felt there was hope for change.

On Friday, the Secretary marked her 100th day with the Foreign Affairs Day celebration and Memorial commemoration. Now I know that the 100 days mantra is just a media creation. I get that. But really, it is a means to look at where priorities are in any administration. What do you care about enough to fix immediately.

Honestly, naively, I thought and hoped that the Secretary cared enough about her LGBT employees to do something quickly. We were on the "fast track," she said. She was presented with a letter signed by 2,200 of the foreign affairs community and with documents outlining what steps she could take with a mere stroke of the pen. Steps that weren't taken in the past only because a lack of political will, not because the steps were all that difficult. Recommendations for what she could do were described as being "on her desk" in late March. She has been such a long-time friend to the LGBT community that I really believed that change was imminent. That we had seen the last summer transfer season where gay and lesbian employees would be forced to pay to bring their partner to post so that the partner could live the life of second-class citizenship that is the Member of Household's lot. That the days of the Department paying for the shipment of a pet but not the travel of a partner were over.

But they are not.

One hundred days in and we still do not have a place at the table. One hundred days in and we are still, despite the meetings, the good words, the promise that she knew this was an issue of workplace fairness, second-class employees with second-class spouses. We still receive less pay for the same work than do our heterosexual colleagues, 63% of whom said in a recent survey that they support equal rights for same-sex spouses.

I am still waiting. We are still waiting. We are hoping our service will soon be as valued as our heterosexual colleagues' service. And in the meantime, I, and perhaps the other 700 or so people who have spouses who are only Members of Household and not eligible family members, are left contemplating how long they can remain in a job that forces them to choose their career over their family. You can read about the frustration facing LGBT families in "Speaking Out" in this month's issue of the Foreign Service Journal.

I hope we don't have to wait much longer.

1 comment:

DS said...

I just read that piece and I thought of you and my best friend who is a trailing partner as well. Hang in there. Things can be reealllly slow to change. It was not too long ago when female officers had to resign when they got married, and FSOs were rated on how their spouses performed in the two for the price of one employment deal. I sympathized with your family's frustrations. I hope things will change in the near future. I bumped into the GLBT alltop news below btw; thought this might interest you.