Tuesday, June 30, 2009

GLIFAA dissed by the White House?

I am beginning to wonder what is up. No representative from GLIFAA was invited to the White House signing of the memorandum on June 17. Perhaps an oversight. Media coverage neglected to mention GLIFAA, despite the fact that only two federal agencies were specifically mentioned in the memorandum, the State Department and the Department of Justice. And GLIFAA has been working with the State Department since BEFORE day one. We worked with the previous administration. We worked with the transition team. And we have worked with this administration. It was GLIFAA that prepared the papers, still available at whitehouse.gov, outlining which benefits the Secretary could extend to same-sex partners with just the stroke of her pen, and which required congressional action. She took each of our recommendations.

So fine, we weren't invited to the small gathering for the signing. But now this: Gay leaders invited to the White House to meet the President. Not to diminish the role played by FedGLOBE, but the much more of the credit for the benefits extended belongs to GLIFAA. But while the same members of the FedGLOBE were invited to both White House events, GLIFAA was again left off the list.

I'd like to believe that these events were a bone tossed to those who got less than we did, but I am not sure I do.

Gay Pride at the White House

President Obama hosted hundreds of gay rights leaders and activists at the White House earlier today, marking the 40th anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement.

As The Post's Michael D. Shear reports, Obama "became the first Oval Office occupant to officially celebrate gay pride in the White House even as the gay community remains bitterly divided about the pace of Obama's efforts to turn words into action for their agenda.

"In recognizing the march of progress since the protests outside New York's Stonewall Inn 40 years ago, Obama achieved a milestone for many gay and lesbian Americans who mark the day as the beginning of their modern rights movement.

"But the excitement among the several hundred guests invited by the first couple to the East Wing Monday was tempered by frustration among many who believe that the president has moved too slowly to make good on his campaign promises."

Below find a list of the federal government and political officials and other prominent activists invited to attend the meeting, as provided in a White House pool report:

John Berry, Director of Office of Personnel Management

Fred Hochberg, Chair, Export-Import Bank

John Easton, Director, Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education

Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council

Judith Appelbaum, Department of Justice

Vic Basile, Office of Personnel Management

Jeremy Bernard, National Endowement for the Humanities

Raymond Buckley, DNC Vice-Chair

Jamie Citron, Department of Health and Human Services

Cheryl Cook, Department of Agriculture

Steven Elmendorf, Democratic Party consultant, Washington, D.C.

Eric Fanning, Department of Justice

Hon. Michael Guest, Former Ambassador

Gavin Hilgemeier, Federal GLOBE

Leonard Hirsch, Federal GLOBE

Lorilyn Holmes, Federal GLOBE

Hon. James Hormel, the first openly gay U.S. ambassador

Kevin Jennings, Department of Education

Jennifer Jones, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Frank Kameny, Washington, DC

Elaine Kaplan, Office of Personnel Management

Thomas Lopach, Export-Import Bank

Mary Beth Maxwell, Department of Labor

Kevin Naff, Washington Blade

David Noble, NASA

Gautam Raghavan, Department of Defense

Steven Ralls, Washington, D.C.

Ellen Ratner, Washington, D.C.

Bishop Gene Robinson, Diocese of New Hampshire

Hilary Rosen, Washington, D.C.

Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard Foundation

Rick Stafford, DNC LGBT Caucus Chair

Andrew Tobias, DNC Treasurer

Alex Wagner, Department of Defense

Tobias Wolff, Philadelphia, Pa.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The changes are official

Here is the ALDAC regarding the same-sex partner benefits Secretary Clinton announced last week:

R 262320Z JUN 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Implementing Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees Serving Abroad

Ref: State 063819
1. Last Thursday, the Secretary announced that the Department is extending the full range of legally available benefits to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad. I am pleased to advise that the implementing changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) will be effective for the Department of State on June 26, 2009. If other agencies decide to implement these changes as well, they may choose the same date or any subsequent date.

2. The interim changes to the FAM are available on line at http://hrweb.hr.state.gov/prd/hrweb/dg/pc/same_sex_domestic_partners.cfm. We expect them to be published in final within 30 days, following interagency review. We encourage you to review them to gain a fuller understanding of the benefits extended in reftel.

3. To obtain benefits for their same-sex domestic partners, employees must:

(1) file an affidavit of eligibility for benefits and obligations (also available at http://hrweb.hr.state.gov/prd/hrweb/dg/pc/same_sex_domes
) and,
(2) update their OF-126(Residency and Dependency Report, see para 6). Please read and consider the affidavit carefully before signing.

4. Domestic partners must also comply with the same security requirements and undergo the same background review as spouses. Domestic partners must also have a valid medical clearance for the post of assignment. Those already at post should follow the procedures for a newly acquired dependent - they will be given access to the overseas health unit for up to 90 days pending completion of their medical clearance. It is important to note that domestic partners must have health insurance as the Department acts only as a secondary payer in event of overseas hospitalization.

5. As per the FAM regulations, the affidavit must affirm, among other things, that the employee and his/her domestic partner:

(a) are each other's sole domestic partner and intend to remain committed to one another indefinitely;
(b) have a common residence, and intend to continue the arrangement;
(c) are at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to consent to contract;
(d) share responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare and financial obligations;
(e) are not married to, joined in civil union with, or domestic partners with anyone else; and
(f) are same-sex domestic partners, and not related in a way that would prohibit legal marriage in the State in which we reside.

6. For State employees, both documents should be directed to your Assignment Technician in HR/EX. The OF-126 must be filed electronically. An updated version is available to each employee through his/her GEMS account on HR Online. The signed affidavit can be e-mailed to your assignment technician at "HR-EX-ASU" on the Global Address List or faxed to 202-663-0449. You may file these forms immediately.

7. Employees of other foreign affairs agencies should consult their Human Resources Office for filing instructions. We offer that the OF-0126, available on the Department of State's intranet, might be amended with a pen-and-ink change to add "domestic partner" in the box requesting "relationship".

8. Additional instructions and guidance will be issued in the coming days on specific benefits. In addition, while we are willing to offer diplomatic and official passports to eligible US citizen domestic partners, diplomatic visas and work eligibility for them depends upon host governments. In this regard, bilateral work agreements may have to be renegotiated.

9. As we proceed to implement this important initiative, we welcome any suggestions you may have for improvement.

10. Minimize considered.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jerusalem Pride

I was in Jerusalem for one of their Pride parades. I didn't participate, not because I am closeted (obviously I am not), but because it was unsafe. But even though the ultra orthodox threw feces on the marchers and one person was stabbed, in ways, Israel is ahead of us on gay rights. Gay marriages from a broad are recognized by the state (there are no secular marriages performed in Israel so all secular marriages from abroad are recognized). And the below was included in the article on Jerusalem Pride.

Jerusalem Gays Hold Eighth Pride Parade Despite Ongoing Controversy


Although lagging behind such countries as Canada or Holland, Israel is seen as one of the most advanced nations when it comes to gay rights. Soldiers are allowed to be openly gay in the military, and while same-sex couples cannot get married in Israel, their marriages, when conducted abroad, are recognized as legal upon return to the country. Gay partners of diplomats are accorded the same rights and benefits as heterosexual diplomatic spouses. [...]

Saturday, June 20, 2009

State Department Bios of GLIFAA members

This year, in honor of Gay Pride month, for the first time ever, the Office of Civil Rights at the State Department did what it has for Black History month, Hispanic History month, etc. It posted bios of GLIFAA members. Fairness and inclusiveness wins again!

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Bryan Dalton

Bryan Dalton, FS-01, joined the Department in 1987. A graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he studied in Warsaw and interned in Niger.

His early overseas tours as a consular officer included Mexico City, Taipei, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. In 1995 he helped open Embassy Hanoi as a political officer. Returning to the Department, he was desk officer for Benin, Togo, Cote d'Ivoire and the Gambia, then for Sierra Leone during the height of its civil war.

Through the Department’s mid-career studies program, he earned a Masters in Public Policy at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School in 2001. After a tour as program officer for the International Visitor Program in New York City, he served four years as Consul General in Bucharest.

In 1992 he helped found Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA). During his presidency of the organization from 1998-2000, GLIFAA worked with the Department to end discriminatory practices and establish the Members of Household policy. In these efforts, he has been motivated by the counsel and example of many current and former Department employees who lost their jobs or endured harassment due to their sexual orientation, and by the courage of LGBTs who have broken down barriers in their foreign affairs careers.

Currently, he is chief of the consular section and GLIFAA post representative in Chennai. He is accompanied by his partner of 17 years, Mr. Nam Nguyen, and their adopted Romanian street dog, Devi. Dalton and Nguyen have served four foreign and two domestic tours together.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Patrick Wingate

Patrick R. Wingate joined the Department of State as a consular-coned Foreign Service Officer in January 2004. He and his family served first in San Salvador, El Salvador and then in Zagreb, Croatia. Their next tour is Tbilisi, Georgia.

Before joining the Foreign Service Patrick worked for State and USAID from 1993 through 2003 in Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he served as Washington-based program manager for USAID/OTI projects in Sierra Leone, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Patrick and his Canadian partner, Rami Shakra, were married in Canada in September 2003, and their two children Canaan and Maya were born in 2004 in Guatemala. The Shakra-Wingate Family proudly serves the United States of America abroad, and hopes to be a cultural example of the rich diversity and equality their country has to offer for all families, both foreign and domestic.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Nell Robinson

Nell Robinson is a second tour foreign service officer currently serving in Embassy Kabul’s political section covering the human rights portfolio. Prior to this tour she served as a consular officer for two years in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Her next assignment is the economics long course at FSI.

Before joining the State Department in 2005, Nell worked as a staff attorney at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Nell’s partner of ten years, Rachel Mandal, served as newsletter editor in Ciudad Juarez. During the March Entry Level Professionals conference in Kathmandu, Nell encouraged the Director General to re-visit the policy prohibiting Members of Household (MOHs) from applying for EFM jobs in Kabul. During her tour in Ciudad Juarez, she organized the Consulate’s first gay pride day celebration which was extremely well received by both Locally Engaged Staff and Foreign and Civil Service Professionals there.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Ken Kero

Ken Kero joined the U.S. Foreign Service January 2000. He has served in Rio de Janeiro, Baghdad, Washington, and currently Berlin, and is heading out to serve as Economic and Commercial Officer in Colombo, Sri Lanka this summer. While serving in Berlin, Ken met and, after a two-and-a-half year courtship, married his husband, David Kero-Mentz. In 2009, he received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for his work on arms control and disarmament issues. He has twice served on the board of GLIFAA and remains active in supporting equality both at State and with national organizations.

Prior to joining State, Mr. Kero was a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill, working first for Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and later Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA). He grew up in Vermont and graduated from the George Washington University, where he earned his BA in International Affairs and his Master’s in Public Administration. In his spare time, Ken and his husband like to travel and rest up from traveling.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: J. Michelle Schohn and Mary E. Glantz

J. Michelle Schohn and Mary E. Glantz are a tandem couple serving in Washington, D.C. Dr. Glantz entered the Foreign Service in 2002 as a political-coned Foreign Service Officer and served her first tour in Baku as a political officer. Ms. Schohn was Dr. Glantz’s Member of Household until 2004, when she joined the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy-coned Foreign Service Officer. From 2005 to 2007, Dr. Glantz and Ms. Schohn served in Jerusalem as consular/political officers. In 2007, they returned to Washington, D.C., where Dr. Glantz is currently serving as the Russia Desk internal political affairs officer. Ms. Schohn served one year on the INR Watch and is currently the Special Assistant to the INR Front Office. In June, Dr. Glantz will move to the Poland Desk and Ms. Schohn will serve as a Press Officer in the Spokesman’s office.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Dr. Glantz completed a PhD in history at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is the author of FDR and the Soviets, a study of United States–Soviet relations during the Roosevelt Administration. She earned a B.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from the University of London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Ms. Schohn was an archaeologist and is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned a B.A. in English/Journalism and an M.A. in anthropology from the University of South Carolina, and is a member of the PeeDee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek. Ms. Schohn and Dr. Glantz have been together since 1999 and were married in the United Church of Christ in Chapel Hill, NC in 2002.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Ajit Joshi

Ajit Joshi is a Senior Program Officer in the Program, Policy, and Management Office in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID. Previously, he served as Special Assistant to the Counselor Ambassador Mosina H. Jordan, Team Leader for NGO capacity building in conflict affected areas managing a $22 million NGO strengthening portfolio, Acting Division Chief managing a staff overseeing a $41 million communication, peace building, and governance program in Africa, and Conflict Management Specialist in Africa, during which time he earned USAID’s Superior Honor Award.

Mr. Joshi is the Policy Director of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) and he serves as the GLIFAA representative to the USAID Executive Diversity Council and has previously served as an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counselor. He published the article, "Achieving Full Diversity in the Foreign Service," in the Foreign Service Journal and has received a Superior Accomplishment Award for Special Acts and Suggestions as well as an Equal Employment Opportunity Award for launching initiatives to improve diversity at USAID. In addition to GLIFAA, he is the Diversity Co-Chair for the National Capitol Area Steering Committee for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization.

Mr. Joshi received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Tufts University, a Fulbright Fellowship to study in India, and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Outside of work and LGBT advocacy, Mr. Joshi teaches yoga and meditation and loves the outdoors.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Clayton Bond and Ted Osius

Clayton Bond and Ted Osius met in Washington, DC, in 2004, at a monthly business meeting of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) – the officially-recognized organization representing the concerns of gay and lesbian personnel and their families in the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and other foreign affairs agencies and offices in the U.S. Government. Ted was then the deputy director of the Korea desk and Clayton was a Watch Officer in the Department’s 24/7 Operations Center. They were married in Vancouver, Canada in June 2006 and had a commitment ceremony in Ted’s home state of Maryland the following month.

For the past three years, they were posted together at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, where Ted was the Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Clayton was first an Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer and, later, a General Services Officer. Previously, Ted served as Embassy Bangkok’s Regional Environmental Affairs Officer, and as Senior Adviser on International Affairs to Vice President Al Gore, with a portfolio encompassing Asia, international economics and trade issues. He also served in the Philippines, the Vatican, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Clayton served previously as a Recruiter for Department, covering the Southeast U.S., and as a Consular Officer in Bogota.

Ted wrote The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance: Why It Matters and How To Strengthen It (Published in 2002 by CSIS/Praeger). He earned his B.A. from Harvard University, and his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He edited and researched Let’s Go: Israel and Egypt, Let’s Go: Greece, Let’s Go: Italy, and Let’s Go: Europe while an undergraduate. In late June 2009, he will begin a tour as Deputy Chief of Mission in Jakarta.

Clayton has a Master’s degree in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford, where he was a Fulbright Scholar; a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hampton University. In August 2009, he will join Embassy Singapore as Assistant General Services Officer.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Robin S. Brooks

Robin S. Brooks is a career Foreign Service Officer currently serving in the State Department Operations Center and assigned to the Political Section at Embassy Sarajevo starting summer 2010. She previously served as American Citizens’ Services Chief and Non-Immigrant Visa Chief in Ankara Turkey, and before that was the human rights negotiator at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Robin taught political science at Sofia University in Bulgaria and also worked as a translator for the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, an independent human rights NGO.

Ms. Brooks is the recipient of two Department Superior Honor Awards for her human rights work, in 2005 and 2006, as well as a Meritorious Honor Award in 2008 for her work to facilitate the resettlement of Iraqi refugees to the U.S. through Turkey.

Robin is a native of Pueblo, CO, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in political science. She is also a 1995 graduate of Smith College.

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson is the 49th U.S. Consul General in Munich, Germany. As Consul General for Bavaria, he is working to expand and strengthen partnerships between Bavaria and the United States, focusing on security cooperation, citizen diplomacy, and business and investment ties.

Mr. Nelson joined the Foreign Service in 1990. He most recently served in Washington in the Office of Global Support Services and Innovation and as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Administration, where he developed strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of the State Department's support of overseas posts.

Mr. Nelson has served overseas as the Management Consul in Milan, Budget and Finance Attaché in Mexico City, and as a Vice Consul in Frankfurt and Santo Domingo.

He began his career in public service as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching math and science in Liberia, West Africa from 1984-1985. Mr. Nelson, a resident of Texas, graduated from Rice University of Houston, Texas, in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. He also studied German in a Rutgers University program at the Universität Konstanz in 1982. In addition to German, he speaks Italian and Spanish. In 1988, Mr. Nelson received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He has received the Department of State's Superior Honor Award twice and the Meritorious Honor Award five times.

Consul General Nelson received the “IDIZEM Dialogpreis 2008” in Munich in recognition of his engagement for inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Washington Times: Gay Diplomats Get Key Benefits

Clinton: Gay Diplomats Get Key Benefits
Friday, June 19, 2009
Washington Times
By Nicholas Kralev

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued an order Thursday granting diplomatic passports, access to medical care and U.S. government jobs overseas to same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats.

The State Department released a statement by Mrs. Clinton, who worked from home after a bad fall late Wednesday in which she fractured an elbow. She is expected to have surgery within days, spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

Thursday's order marks a significant change in policy, and officials said it goes into effect immediately. The State Department will now cover the moving expenses of domestic partners of gay Foreign Service members on their way to a new assignment, as well as the cost of any emergency evacuation.

"Domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally," Mrs. Clinton said. "This change is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do."

Mrs. Clinton's order came a day after President Obama extended to gay federal employees limited benefits, such as paid leave to care for a sick partner but not health coverage. Her directive had been approved in advance by the White House.

Partners of gay and unmarried heterosexual diplomats will now be given language and other training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington. In addition, they will have priority when applying for employment at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, which is now afforded only to spouses.

"Changing our policy to provide training, medical care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners will promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad," Mrs. Clinton said. "It will help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers."

Just before leaving office in late 2000, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright designated domestic partners "members of household," but that did not bring meaningful benefits. Still, it allowed though it did not require ambassadors and other mission managers to extend some limited benefits, such as building passes and access to medical clinics.

Mrs. Clinton's order makes those requirements mandatory.

That would prevent cases like the recent one of a department employee in Mexico whose two sons tested positive for swine flu. The employee was given the anti-viral medication Tamiflu by the diplomatic post's health unit, but the employee's partner was denied the medication until acting Ambassador Leslie Bassett intervened.

"We will implement this policy by changing our Foreign Affairs Manual and the Standardized Regulations to allow the same-sex domestic partners of the department's Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances," Mrs. Clinton said. "Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners as well."

Jason L. Davis, acting ambassador to Malta and a gay career diplomat, called Mrs. Clinton's order "a huge, positive change."

"With the exception of health insurance, we are now being treated the same as straight families in all the areas that matter most," Mr. Davis said.

Many of the benefits, such as diplomatic passports and certain embassy jobs, are only available to U.S. citizens.

State Department officials also conceded that in some countries, partners of gay diplomats may not be accepted and granted visas by the host government. In many countries around the world, homosexuality is illegal.

"The department also will work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work in the local economy," Mrs. Clinton said.

CNN: Clinton Blazes Trail on Same-Sex Benefits

I love our Secretary. Just saying.

Clinton Blazes Trail on Same-Sex Benefits

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

Yesterday’s groundbreaking move by President Obama to provide some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees came to fruition in large part due to Secretary of Clinton, who first put the issue on the table.

It is unclear whether the Obama administration came to office planning to offer government-wide benefits to domestic partners of civil service employees, but Clinton, a longtime advocate of gay rights, was on it day one. Since President Obama named her as his pick for Secretary of State in November, Clinton’s transition staff and the State Department had been working with members of the American Foreign Service Association and the group GLIFAA (Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) on what could be done to extend benefits to domestic partners of diplomats serving abroad.

At her very first senior staff meeting Clinton instructed the State Department to review whether she had the authority to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners. About a week later a gay employee asked Clinton during a town hall with employees to eliminate discrimination against same sex partners. The Secretary of State drew loud applause when she said the issue was “of real concern” to her, and that she was already working on it.

Several weeks ago, a memo to employees from Clinton instituting the changes was leaked to the press. Clinton’s aides at the time said the memo was a draft, and that Clinton couldn’t change policies without an “interagency review” of the issue to make sure State Department actions wouldn’t negatively affect other agencies. But the memo seemed to light a fire under the administration, which quickly caught up to Clinton’s lead.

Still, the health benefits announced Wednesday for same sex partners of non-State Department civil employees is a drop in the bucket compared to the long list of other benefits the State Department extended to the gay partners of US diplomats serving abroad. In addition to health benefits and access to medical and emergency evacuation, domestic partners will also get diplomatic passports, training at the Foreign Service Institute and housing allowances. Same sex partners will get the same preference for US embassy jobs that spouses currently enjoy, and the State Department will now work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, work permits and other privileges, including diplomatic immunity. The State Department will even pay for them to fly home if a relative is gravely ill. Few of these benefits are currently offered to domestic partners.

Although the Foreign Service has difference rules and regulations which allow the State Department to do more in the first place, Clinton extended the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same sex partners of members of the Foreign Service. In a statement issued Thursday acknowledging the support partners provide to overseas posts, Clinton said, “domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally.”

Clinton knows the move is also good business. Today’s US diplomats serving around the world are increasingly having to shed their pinstripe suits and get dirty in the field, which requires a whole different skill set. These days the State Department is competing for the same Arabic and Farsi speakers and technology gurus as top notch multinational companies, where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm. Clinton herself noted if the State Department wants to remain a “word class employer” which attracts and retains high caliber personnel, the change is “the smart thing to do.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Partner Benefits!

This is amazing. I have never been prouder to serve than I am today, and never happier that Secretary Clinton is my boss.


Office of the Spokesman


For Immediate Release June 18, 2009


Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees

While a career in the Foreign Service is rewarding, the demands to serve our country require great commitment and sacrifice by Foreign Service employees and their families. As in American society, our Foreign Service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our Post communities abroad. Family members often uproot their lives, endure hardship conditions, and put their own careers on hold to support our overseas missions. The Department of State acknowledges these vital contributions by providing certain family members with benefits, training, and allowances.

The same has not been true for domestic partners of Foreign Service employees. While these partners support the work of our overseas posts, they are not granted benefits and allowances provided for other family members. Domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally. As one of my first acts as Secretary, I directed the Department to review whether we had the flexibility to extend additional benefits to domestic partners.

Yesterday, the President issued a memorandum reflecting his commitment to ensuring that same-sex domestic partners receive the maximum benefits that each agency legally can undertake. I am pleased to announce that the Department of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad.

Changing our policy to provide training, medical care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners will promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad. It will help the Department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers. This change is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do.

We will implement this policy by changing our Foreign Affairs Manual and the Standardized Regulations to allow the same-sex domestic partners of the Department’s Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances. Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners as well. To qualify for these benefits and allowances on behalf of a same-sex domestic partner, an employee must file an affidavit identifying his or her same-sex domestic partner and certifying to certain eligibility requirements that will be set forth in the FAM.

The Department of State intends to provide the following additional benefits and allowances for declared same-sex domestic partners of eligible employees serving overseas:

· Diplomatic passports,

· Inclusion on employee travel orders to and from posts abroad,

· Shipment of household effects,

· Inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations,

· Family member preference for employment at posts abroad,

· Use of medical facilities at posts abroad,

· Medical evacuation from posts abroad,

· Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives,

· Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts abroad,

· Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts abroad,

· Inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (e.g., payment for quarters, cost of living, and other allowances),

· Representation expenses, and

· Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

The Department also will work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work in the local economy.

We look forward to implementing these changes.

Government Executive: Obama backs extension of benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees

Obama backs extension of benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees

By Alyssa Rosenberg
June 17, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday directed the Office of Personnel Management to extend long-term care benefits and family and parental leave to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal employees, and ordered agencies to conduct internal reviews to identify other benefits that they could extend as well.

"Many of our government's hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason -- the people that they love are of the same sex," Obama said.

Obama stopped short of granting employees' domestic partners access to health care benefits, saying he legally could not do so, but endorsed legislation that would provide such benefits.

The legislation, known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517) is currently under consideration on Capitol Hill.

"Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees is the right thing to do," Obama said. "It is also sound economic policy. Many top employers in the private sector already offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees; those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees. The federal government is at a disadvantage on that score right now, and change is long overdue."

Obama also backed a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the government from offering full domestic partner benefits. "It's discriminatory, it interferes with states' rights, and it's time we overturned it," he said.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry characterized Obama's memo as "is a first step, not a final step. This is an attempt to get our federal house in order.... I think the gay community, of which I am a member, can be extremely proud that this administration is with us and stands with us on the core issues that we care deeply about."

The memo mentions two specific governmentwide benefits for civil servants: the long-term care insurance program and the right to use sick leave to care for an ailing partner or nonbiological, nonadoptive children. It also lists a number of other benefits for the partners of State Department employees. Obama directed OPM and State to move immediately to provide those benefits.

Berry said while some federal supervisors have been understanding about sick leave use, the president's order would create a uniform policy.

"When I worked at the Smithsonian and my partner passed away in 1996, my supervisor, Connie Newman, extended to me the ability to take leave to handle that situation," he said. "Federal employees will no longer have to rely on whether their supervisor is enlightened or not."

Michelle Schohn, president of the employee group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, said it was disappointing that the administration had waited so long to let the State Department act on plans to change policies affecting the spouses of gay and lesbian diplomats when they are stationed overseas. A draft of a plan by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to allow Foreign Service officers' domestic partners access to medical facilities, job competitions and housing and evacuation coverage has been circulating since at least May. But Schohn noted that most Foreign Service officers are assigned to new posts in April.

"From the perspective of people whose lives depend on these changes, the change has seemed to be very slow and tentative," she said.

The memorandum also directs department and agency heads to begin internal reviews to determine if they can offer additional benefits to gay and lesbian employees. Berry conducted such a review as an assistant secretary in the Interior Department during the Clinton administration. It led to the expansion of relocation benefits and counseling services to the domestic partners of Interior employees and the elimination of provisions of the National Park Service's law enforcement standards, including a ban on security clearances for gay and lesbian employees.

Obama gave OPM 90 days to issue guidance on how agencies should implement civil service laws offering protection against discrimination. Berry said the guidance would make clear that in addition to sexual orientation, gender expression and identity cannot provide a basis for discrimination in employment.

"It is the view of the president and the administration that it is a bedrock principle of federal civil service that the employer does not make employment decisions on anything other than the employee's ability to do their job," Berry said.

Schohn said adding gender identity to anti-discrimination policy would be a significant step.

"It is the kind of forward-leaning thing that I think the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community is looking for," she said. "We're looking for our president to tell us that all kinds of discrimination are wrong."

But Schohn also noted that access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is "the big thing."

Health benefits for federal employees became a pressing issue for the administration in January and February, when two California federal judges ordered their benefits offices to process health care enrollments for the partners of two gay court employees. In the past, OPM has said the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from treating same-sex couples in the same way as heterosexual married couples, blocked the agency from extending health care benefits. The judges argued that OPM in fact had the authority to grant access to health care to domestic partners if it chose to do so.

The administration also faces a June 29 deadline to file a brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act in a suit brought by a group of gay federal employees in Massachusetts. Those employees, who are legally married to their partners, say the government has unfairly denied them benefits available to heterosexual married couples. The administration has drawn fire from gay rights groups for a brief defending DOMA in a separate lawsuit in California.

Federal labor unions said they would renew their push for passage of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act in conjunction with Obama's endorsement of the bill. Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, wrote to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who sponsored the Senate and House versions of the legislation, to say the union "stand[s] ready to assist you in helping this bill become law." Baldwin appeared with Obama at the White House Wednesday when he signed his memo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Memorandum


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 17, 2009
June 17, 2009


SUBJECT: Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination

Millions of hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants are employed by the Federal Government as part of the civilian workforce, and many of these devoted Americans have same-sex domestic partners. Leading companies in the private sector are free to provide to same-sex domestic partners the same benefits they provide to married people of the opposite sex. Executive departments and agencies, however, may only provide benefits on that basis if they have legal authorization to do so. My Administration is not authorized by Federal law to extend a number of available Federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees. Within existing law, however, my Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of State, who oversees our Foreign Service employees, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, has identified areas in which statutory authority exists to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex. Extending available benefits will help the Federal Government compete with the private sector to recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees.
I hereby request the following:

Section 1. Extension of Identified Benefits. The Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall, in consultation with the Department of Justice, extend the benefits they have respectively identified to qualified same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved and is consistent with Federal law.

Sec. 2. Review of Governmentwide Benefits. The heads of all other executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, shall conduct a review of the benefits provided by their respective departments and agencies to determine what authority they have to extend such benefits to same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. The results of this review shall be reported within 90 days to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who, in consultation with the Department of Justice, shall recommend to me any additional measures that can be taken, consistent with existing law, to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal Government employees.

Sec 3. Promoting Compliance with Existing Law Requiring Federal Workplaces to be Free of Discrimination Based on Non-Merit Factors. The Office of Personnel Management shall issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, rules, and regulations, including 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(10), which make it unlawful to discriminate against Federal employees or applicants for Federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) Authority granted by law or Executive Order to an agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) Functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 5. Publication. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
# # #

A Start

So here it is. The announcement we have been waiting for. President Obama is right that it is a historic step and that it is only a step. There is so much more that we need, not the least of which is health insurance for our partners. And we need full marriage. Now. I can't even begin to describe to you how irritated I get with those who complain that the LGBT community has not given him enough time. These are people who have full rights. Who are full citizens. Who have marriages that are recognized no matter where they live. I don't. My church recognizes my marriage but my state and my country, the country I serve, does not. Stop telling me to be patient.

I understand that this is as far as the President can go for now. I am gratified that this appears to give Secretary Clinton the go ahead to release the letter leaked last month. Her letter and the benefits offered in it, go a long way towards making the lives of LGBT officers better. She too is doing all she can.

Now it is up to Congress. Repeal DOMA. Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Grant LGBT families marriage rights even if you have to call it something else. Make me a full citizen.

Statement by the President on the Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination and Support of the Lieberman-Baldwin Benefits Legislation


Office of the Press Secretary


In 2007, Michael Guest, the first openly gay Ambassador confirmed by the United States Senate, resigned from the Foreign Service. He loved his career, but he had to leave it in the end -- because he believed that the country he served was failing to implement the principles of equality it espoused abroad. His partner was ineligible for training provided to Ambassadorial spouses; he bore the costs of his partner's transportation to his placements abroad; and his partner did not receive the overseas benefits and allowances given to spouses of Ambassadors.

It is too late to prevent Ambassador Guest from having to make the choice he made, but today I am proud to issue a Presidential Memorandum that will go a long way toward achieving equality for many of the hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic LGBT Americans serving in our Federal Government -- Americans like Ambassador Guest. In consultation with Secretary Clinton, who in her role as Secretary of State oversees our foreign service employees, and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, my Administration has identified a number of areas in which greater equality can be achieved under existing law by extending to the same-sex partners of Federal employees many of the same benefits already available to the spouses of heterosexual Federal employees. I am therefore requesting the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to extend the benefits they have identified to the same-sex partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved consistent with Federal law. I am also requesting the heads of all other executive departments and agencies to conduct a review of the benefits they administer to determine which may legally be extended to same-sex partners.

But this Presidential Memorandum is just a start. Unfortunately, my Administration is not authorized by existing Federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That's why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It's discriminatory, it interferes with States' rights, and it's time we overturned it.

I am also proud to announce my support for an important piece of legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress last month -- the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. This legislation will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees the same benefits already enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees. The legislation has a number of co-sponsors in both Houses of Congress, but among those many sponsors, I want to recognize one in particular -- Representative Tammy Baldwin, who has been a real leader on this issue, and more broadly on the LGBT struggle for equality. Representative Baldwin, I look forward to working with you to achieve the important objectives set out in this bill as it moves through the legislative process. I also look forward to working with the bill's Senate champions, Senators Lieberman and Collins; I know that they will approach this process with the same spirit of cooperation in pursuit of our shared goals that they bring to all of their work in the Senate.

Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees is the right thing to do. It is also sound economic policy. Many top employers in the private sector already offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees; those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees. The Federal Government is at a disadvantage on that score right now, and change is long overdue.

As Americans, we are all affected when our promises of equality go unfulfilled. Through measures like the Presidential Memorandum I am issuing today and the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, we will advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded and continue to perfect our Union.

Memorandum signed by the President regarding federal benefits and non-discrimination.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Please let it be true

Obama to Extend Benefits to Federal Workers' Partners

By Kerry Eleveld

An Obama administration official has confirmed to The Advocate that President Barack Obama will be signing a presidential memorandum Wednesday to provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

The signing is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. in the Oval Office, and the president is scheduled to make brief remarks.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Same-sex couples fight for immigration rights

This issue hits LGBT Foreign Service families particularly hard. Like their straight colleagues, many LGBT Foreign Service officers find the loves of their lives while serving their country overseas. And thus begins the difficult path of constantly choosing between their family and serving their country. Most end up serving only overseas, to the detriment of their ability to advance in a career that depends on making connections back in Washington, DC. And most end up, at the end of their careers spent serving the country they love, not being able to retire to the country they love because it means leaving the person they love behind.

Same-sex couples fight for immigration rights

(CNN) -- Jared was forced to choose between a dying father and the love of his life.

Judy Rickard had to quit her job and lose her full pension to be with the one she loved.

Martha McDevitt-Pugh packed up and moved to another country to be with her future spouse.

"Nobody should be in that position. Nobody should have to be an exile," Rickard said.

But all three said their hands were forced by federal immigration laws that don't allow Americans to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex partners for citizenship as a man may do for his wife or a woman for her husband.

"The problem is that I, as a woman, cannot sponsor my female partner for immigration. If I was a man or [my partner] Karin was a man, we wouldn't be having this discussion," said Rickard, 61.

She now travels outside the United States whenever she can to be with her partner, Karin Bogliolo, 68, who had to go back to Britain when her visa expired last year, but it's not the life together they dreamed of.

"I am finally with someone I really want to be with," Bogliolo said. "But we haven't got all the time in the world. We're both getting old."

An estimated 36,000 bi-national couples face the same dilemma each year, according to an advocacy group, Immigration Equality.

The issue will be discussed in Congress on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after 10 previous attempts to have hearings on the Uniting American Families Act. The bill has 102 co-sponsors in the House and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, including Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council which opposes same sex marriage, has condemned the bill as "yet another attack on marriage at the expense of U.S. taxpayers."

"Although Leahy frames the policy as an anti-discrimination measure, the truth is, this weakens our federal law and chips away at the unique status of marriage," Perkins wrote in a blog on the group's Web site.

"For the federal government to recognize homosexual pairs in any way, shape, or form is a violation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act."

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, who is openly gay, is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill, but thinks it should be part of a larger immigration reform measure, according to his spokesman, Harry Gural.

Gural said Frank "doubts that it will be taken up in this Congress because of the overwhelming need to deal with other issues like financial regulation, climate change and health care." Gural said Frank supports the bill, but "he's just a pragmatist."

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from couples facing deportation and split because of the law. Nineteen other countries, including much of western Europe and Canada, Brazil and Australia among others, allow nationals to sponsor same-sex partners for citizenship.

"We're not asking for anything special," Rickard said. "This is a civil rights issue; it's about basic rights and right now, we are considered second-class citizens. But this bill, if it passed, it would mean quite simply that we could be equal."

There will also be testimony from opponents like Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that supports a restrictive immigration policy and the deportation of illegal immigrants. She will testify that immigration numbers in the United States are already staggering and the bill would put further stress on the system.

Vaughan said that because the bill would allow sponsoring of "permanent partnerships," it would be difficult to accept applications because there was no documentation for those, the way there are for marriages.

"Without documents, how do you establish the relationship is bona fide?" she said. "And if we are going to make this change, it should be across all federal levels, not just immigration. What about Social Security and Medicare?"

For some same-sex couples, it is enough to start with immigration.

Jared, a Dutch national living in this country illegally who asked to be identified only by his English nickname, fell in love with Melvin Terry in 1978 while traveling in Europe. He had been with Terry for 18 years when he was told by the U.S. government that he had to leave.

"The fact that the government has the right to tell you your relationship is invalid, it's more than frustrating, it's insulting," Terry said.

Then, Jared's dad became ill in the Netherlands.

He was forced to choose whether to go back home to see his father before he died and risk being denied entry back into the United States because he is HIV-positive or of staying with Terry and never seeing his father again.

His father made the choice for him, sending him a letter and underlining "don't even think about coming here." And so for 13 years, Jared, 49, has remained in the United States illegally to be with his 62-year-old partner.

Canadian Chris Waddling, who came to the United States to study and work beginning in 1994 as a research scientist, is one of the lucky ones -- his employer at UCSF has agreed to sponsor him for a green card and permanent residency.

But Waddling says he sees inequality every day at work, in the shape of a female coworker who married a foreign man and could sponsor him.

"Every single time somebody gets a green card based on a spouse's support, it's one more person who has jumped ahead of me in a line I should be in," Waddling said.

Martha McDevitt-Pugh, founder and chairwoman of the advocacy group Love Exiles, gave up waiting for things to change and moved to the Netherlands so she could be with her Dutch partner, Lin McDevitt-Pugh.

The two married in the Netherlands, but Martha McDevitt-Pugh has struggled to find work abroad.

"I realized that what I had in the U.S. I was never going to have that again," she said. "I wanted to have the same choice as everyone else and that was what made me so angry."

The McDevitt-Pughs are hopeful this will be the year things will change, and they encourage all gay people to stand up for the rights they deserve.

"What we have on our side is love," Lin McDevitt-Pugh said. "I know that those in exile are in exile because they love somebody so much that they are willing to leave their country and their families."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Presidential Pride Proclaimation

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 1, 2009
- - - - - - -

Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

Secretary's Remarks: In Recognition of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month 2009

Secretary's Remarks: In Recognition of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month 2009

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 1, 2009

Forty years ago this month, the gay rights movement began with the Stonewall riots in New York City, as gays and lesbians demanded an end to the persecution they had long endured. Now, after decades of hard work, the fight has grown into a global movement to achieve a world in which all people live free from violence and fear, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In honor of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend our appreciation to the global LGBT community for its courage and determination during the past 40 years, and I offer our support for the significant work that still lies ahead.

At the State Department and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in Washington and around the world. They and their families make many sacrifices to serve our nation. Their contributions are vital to our efforts to establish stability, prosperity and peace worldwide.

Human rights are at the heart of those efforts. Gays and lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, even torture. The persecution of gays and lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As Secretary of State, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Though the road to full equality for LGBT Americans is long, the example set by those fighting for equal rights in the United States gives hope to men and women around the world who yearn for a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

This June, let us recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which all people can live in safety and freedom, no matter who they are or whom they love.