Friday, July 24, 2009

Brought to you courtesy of the dark ages

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.


Steve said...

Well said. I have forwarded your piece to the editor of the FSJ. It might help if others wrote to to protest the publishing of this sort of letter. CC AFSA's State VP at

Anonymous said...

If we really want to push our values abroad we should get rid of our special relationship with Saudi Arabia. That has been antithetical to everything America represents and certainly has little to do with the recent progress made with GLBT issues.

Anonymous said...

Very well written.

I wonder what cone he was in? Certainly hope it wasn't PD...

That Lady said...

Thank you for the kind comment you left on my blog, "That Lady, There." Believe me, I'll be taking your advice. Your wonderful blog is already on my list of Foreign Service blogs. I just have it set so that the blog list refreshes and circulates according to recent updates.

About this article in the FSJ: Frankly, I'm stunned and appalled that anyone would express such primeval opinions. Then again, maybe I'm being naive. I can only hope that his opinions are throwbacks and not representative of the notions held today.