I don't know Richard W. Hoover of Front Royal, Virginia, but the self-identified retired FSO certainly represents the bad old days of the Foreign Service.
In his letter in the current issue of the Foreign Service Journal, titled "Don't Encourage Them," he responds to a May 2009 article asking that the Secretary address the inequities facing LGBT Foreign Service families. He says that the article's "sweeping shopping list will produce greater numbers of those whose habits are unacceptable to most American taxpayers, and perhaps more significantly, to the religions and cultures of most of the cultures in which we operate."
He goes on to say that "In my view, the issue is not one of equality and fairness. The issue turns on what is fair for the Foreign Service, what best enables it to accomplish its mission.And that depends, in large part, on building relationships and projecting values."
First, I take issue with his point that our "habits" are unacceptable to most Americans. The latest polling shows a steady increase in support for gay rights, including that 75% of Americans now support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military and more than half of the country supports at least civil unions.
Further, I agree completely that we should be projecting our values. In fact, one of the things I am proudest of in my service is that we are willing to demonstrate that we value diversity to the world in our appointments of Ambassadors and Secretaries of State. Remember when we appointed a black ambassador to apartaid South Africa? We were sending a message that we didn't share their value of discrimination and hatred. It is the same with having had three of the last four Secretaries of State be women. Did we worry that some countries would be offended? No. Because we value equality.
Supporting openly gay diplomats is no different than supporting other minorities. We give benefits to families because it is the right thing to do. And my family is no less valuable than Mr. Hoover's.
We live in a country where such offensive opinions can be spouted freely, and for that I am glad, but I wonder whether the Foreign Service Journal would have published a letter suggesting we not encourage racial minorities or women to join. I suspect not.
At any rate, I am glad I don't serve in the same Foreign Service he did. I am not even certain we served the same country. The country I serve values diversity and respects freedom and equality.