Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fulbrights or Halfwits?

Today in class we learned tons about Fulbrights.

I would be tempted to say we learned everything there is to know about Fulbrights, but clearly that is not true. Our instructor, who has worked on them for 15ish years, said she still learns something else about the program regularly or realizes that there is a lot she doesn't know.

Which suggests to me it is unknowable.

I did have one success today. I realized last night that both of our cars had inspections stickers that expired today. I took my wife to work and got her car inspected on my way to class. I was only 10 minutes late.

Then at lunch, I went home, swapped cars, took mine in and got it inspected.

I got back to FSI with 20 minutes to spare.

I am definitely liking this schedule!

Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month

USUN PRESS RELEASE #128
June 30, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, June 2010

As the United States celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, I join President Obama in reaffirming our commitment to the fundamental rights of LGBT people everywhere.

The Obama Administration has taken active steps to honor this commitment, starting in the federal workforce. Last summer, the President extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of U.S. Government federal employees. I am pleased that Secretary Clinton’s extension of benefits for overseas State Department employees has served as a model for similar changes on behalf of American LGBT staff of the UN Secretariat. Thanks to this work, the partners and families of many hard-working Americans serving abroad may now receive the benefits, training, and allowances that are increasingly the standard for world-class international civil servants. I am very proud of the contributions of LGBT employees in the foreign affairs agencies of the U.S. Government, and am pleased to see that these actions will support them as they continue their good work.

The LGBT community still faces hostility in many parts of the world. In some nations, sexual orientation is considered a crime, and punished with unspeakable violence and humiliation. Public pride is sometimes met with brutal, state-sanctioned beatings and arrests. Members of organizations fighting to advance LGBT rights often do so at considerable risk to their safety and their livelihoods.

Here at the United Nations, the Obama Administration last year supported a historic General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. The United States Mission to the UN is, among other efforts, working to reverse an attempt by some members of the NGO Committee of the Economic and Social Council to deny UN consultative status to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an organization whose widely respected advocacy and research has given a voice to those who have long suffered in silence.

As LGBT Pride Month comes to a close, I am proud to join in heralding the invaluable contributions of the LGBT community to communities and countries the world over, and our unwavering commitment to the rights of all people.

Monday, June 28, 2010

International Visitors

One of the programs I think the Department in general and public diplomacy in particular does really well is the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP).

IVLP is designed to identify future leaders in a country and bring them to the United States for a visit. The idea is to find them early and introduce them to US culture, government, etc. One returning IV said, "It is impossible to participate in this program and not be a friend of the U.S. forever."

I certainly hope so.

So last week we learned about the program, and today, we all participated in "openings," or the first meetings for new IVs. I was alone with an individual IV. She is young, but clearly super active. I am not sure she sleeps. Getting to meet her and talk about the work she is doing in her country (which for her privacy I won't detail here) reminded me once again why I am glad to be in the Foreign Service.

Did I mention I really like the "foreign" part?

In my last three years in the Department, I have not had any interaction with non-Americans. So it was really nice to remember what that is like and why this work is so cool.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fast Times at FSI High

I have spent the last week embracing what will be my life for the next year.

I am a student again.

I am currently taking the Cultural Affairs Officer course. I am enjoying the course, though I am disappointed with the new building. I can't imagine why they would build new classrooms and make them "dumb" classrooms. As in, no internet hookups, no computers, no smart board.

So we are right back to killing trees for all our copies. Right back to not having access to the great (I assume) sharepoint site they have created for the course.

This isn't the instructors' fault, of course. We are in this room because the class is too big for the room they usually use. Though really, I thought that was why they had seat limits on the course. Maybe the registrar's office didn't notice that they had gone over the maximum number of students by 14!

But really, we are in the brand new building. The one the Secretary cut the ribbon on week before last. And we get a projector and screen? Really? That's disappointing.

What isn't disappointing is the class, which is so far better than I expected (okay, except for the grants part, which is important but really really boring). And further, I am really excited to know that I have two friends going out at the two otehr PAOs in the Baltics, and we are already brainstorming ways to work together on some really cool projects. I think my job in Estonia is going to rock!

There was a bit of unpleasantness in the class for me this week, but not something I can discuss here at the moment. Maybe later.

Next week, we get to meet some of the newest international visitors. I'm excited about that too! It has been three long years since I have gotten to engage the "foreign" part of my Foreign Service!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pride Reception with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Pride Reception with Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Join GLIFAA and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the Delegates Lounge to hear about LGBT issues on Capitol Hill.

All are welcome!

Location: Delegates Lounge (Across from the Loy Henderson Auditorium)
Main State
2201 C Street NW

Metro: Foggy Bottom

Monday, June 28th
4:30pm-5:30pm

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CNN: Obama, Clinton vow to defend gay rights, adding 'it's not who we are as Americans'

Here is CNN's updated story:

Obama, Clinton vow to defend gay rights, adding 'it's not who we are as Americans'
By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians at home and abroad Tuesday, as the Obama administration moves to extend further benefits to gays working in the federal government.

"It's not right, it's not who we are as Americans, and we're going to put a stop to it," Obama told a raucous White House reception honoring Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Earlier, Clinton received several standing ovations from a standing-room only crowd of several hundred during her address at an event co-hosted by the State Department's Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

"We are moving together in the right direction," said Clinton. "We reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights of all human beings."

The White House event invited politicians and government officials as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American from across the country, including young people "who have stood up for equality," said White House spokesman Shin Inouye.

At a similar event last year, six months after Obama took office, participants expressed frustration over what they called a lack of progress in confronting discrimination issues that the president had promised to resolve.

This time, Obama received loud applause, cheers and whistles as he cited steps his administration has taken, including a new hate crimes law, extending federal benefits to gay employees and a push for an employee discrimination bill.

The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday that gay workers will be able to take medical leave to care for the sick or newborn children of their same-sex partners as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which generally allows those working for companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 unpaid weeks off to care for newborns or children with serious health issues.

"And finally, we're going to end "don't ask, don't tell," Obama said Tuesday of the policy that prohibits openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service.

A bill that would repeal the policy after a Pentagon review is completed in December is before Congress, the president noted.

"We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy, and I'm going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk," he said to cheers.

Attending the event was Janice Langbehn of Lacey, Washington, who was denied hospital visitation rights when her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, was stricken with a fatal brain aneurysm while on vacation in Florida. Obama mentioned her story on Tuesday, calling the way she was treated "wrong" and "cruel."

Earlier, Clinton said she is asking embassies in Africa and elsewhere to report on rights of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The State Department also is placing more attention on ensuring gays around the world have access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and providing grants to human rights activists who are persecuted either because they are gay or defend gay rights, she said.

"These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue," Clinton said. She drew more rousing applause when she declared "human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights," a variation on the phrase she famously delivered in Beijing 10 years ago declaring "women's rights are human rights."

Clinton said she is equally concerned about creating an environment at the State Department in which gay employees feel valued and "can give 100 percent." That is why, she said, she supported offering equal benefits to same-sex partners of State Department employees, a move that encouraged Obama to authorize such benefits for gays throughout the federal government.

She noted the State Department also has made it easier for transgender people to change their passports and, for the first time, the agency's "equal opportunity statement" will include gender identity. It already includes sexual orientation.

A Good Place to Be

I have a confession.

I know almost nothing about soccer.

I know I should. I know as a diplomat, I will spend most of my career in places where football involves a round, black and white ball. So I should know more about it.

In my defense, there were no soccer teams where I grew up. No way to play it. No way to watch it. Football meant something else entirely.

I have been trying to learn more, as my colleagues have been so enthralled with the world cup. I have even watched a little, and have been trying to get my wife, who played the game as a kid, to explain something to me. But I am still not much further along than my cousin's explanation: ball. net. kick ball into net.

But today, I had a pretty awesome soccer moment.

My grants class (please give me pencils to poke out my eyes) let out at 11:30 for lunch, and I headed over the the FSI cafeteria to eat. The cafeteria was full, and all those TVs I thought only played BNET (the State Department channel) or CNN were on Univision.

All eyes were transfixed on the game, USA vs. Algeria.

I grabbed a soda and a seat figuring there was nothing else to do but watch too, since it was too hot to eat outside and no one was talking. It is the quietest I have ever seen the FSI cafeteria.

Except when Team USA was doing well, and you could hear the pitch rise a bit. Or when the Algerians did something we didn't like, when there was a sort of muttering in unison.

And then it happened.

GOAL!

Team USA scored the only goal of the game!

Everyone was on their feet as the cafeteria erupted in cheers.

And then, in unision, these folks who have all devoted their lives to the service of the country, started chanting: USA! USA!

Okay, except for the Arabic teachers from Algeria.

I admit I got a little teary eyed (I do at the national anthem too...what can I say?).

It was a pretty good place to be today.

Oh, and for you more junior officers out there, particularly the one taking cable writing today: if you miss a bit of class, just walk back in and say nothing. Your instructor will forget pretty quickly that you were late. But whatever you do, don't whisper to your instructor, who would have rather been watching the game, that USA won 1-0. He'll remember you, and that you were late, and not in a good way!

Just saying.

GLIFAA Smart Power - Women's Pride Happy Hour!

GLIFAA Smart Power - Women's Pride Happy Hour!

All are welcome to join foreign affairs agency women for a special Women's event at 15 Ria @ the Doubletree Hotel.

Thursday, June 24
6:00pm-8:00pm

Location: 15 Ria
Doubletree Hotel
1515 Rhode Island Ave NW
Metro: McPherson Square or Dupont Circle

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Transcript: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton At An Event Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Month



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release June 22, 2010
2010/840

Remarks

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
At An Event Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Month

June 22, 2010
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, D.C.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Gee, let’s do this every week. (Laughter.) It’s great after a hard week to tell you how delighted I am to join with all of you from the State Department and USAID and indeed from departments across our government and many guests who are here in the State Department celebrating Pride Month.

And the purpose of this occasion is to recognize with gratitude the contributions made by LGBT members of the State Department family every single day. We celebrate the progress that is being made here in our own country toward advancing the rights of LGBT Americans, and we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done but that we are moving together in the right direction. And we reaffirm our commitment to protect and advance the rights of all human beings, as Cheryl just said, of members of the LGBT community around the world. I want to thank Administrator Raj Shah who we are so delighted, is leading USAID into a very positive future. I want to thank Eric Schwartz, who has traveled tirelessly on behalf of his bureau here at the State Department, dealing with population, refugees, migration. And I want to thank Bob Gilchrist, the outgoing GLIFAA president, for his leadership.

I look around this room and there are not only familiar faces, but there are some longtime friends whom I have had the great personal pleasure of knowing over the years. And I must say that knowing my friends who are here, and assuming much about many of you, I know that this occasion is really part of a deeply personal effort that has impacted lives and has helped to create, as Cheryl said, more space and time for people to lead their own lives. And people in this room – I know from experience – have marched in parades and demonstrations; have lobbied our government and other governments to overturn discriminatory laws; have demonstrated courage, both in public and private, to confront hatred and intolerance; and have helped to build a national movement that reflects the diversity of America.

I have been really moved and greatly motivated by the personal stories and the testimonies of so many whom I have known over so many years. Ten years ago, I was the first First Lady – that is often a phrase that I hear – I was the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade, and it was so much fun. (Applause.) And one or two of you marched with me and I am still grateful to you. (Laughter.) As a senator from New York, I was proud to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would grant equal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees; and the Matthew Shephard [sic] Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law this year. (Applause.)

Now, we, though, in the State Department have to continue the work that many of you have begun and many of you carry on around the world. And I’m very proud that the United States, and particularly the State Department, is taking the lead to confront the circumstances that LGBT people face in just going about their daily lives. So as we enjoy today’s celebration and as we mark the progress that has been truly remarkable – I know that when you’re in the midst of a great movement of change it seems like it is glacial, but any fair assessment, from my perspective, having lived longer than at least more than 75 percent of you that I see in this room – (laughter) – is that it is extraordinary what has happened in such a short period of time.

But think about what’s happening to people as we speak today. Men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors.

These dangers are not “gay” issues. This is a human rights issue. (Applause.) Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all. (Applause.)

So here at the State Department, we will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We are elevating our human rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Our Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor produces an annual Human Rights Report that include a section on how LGBT persons are treated in every country. And recently, that bureau announced a new grant to provide emergency aid to human rights defenders in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East who are at risk, either because they work on these issues or because of their LGBT status.

Our regional bureaus are working closely with our embassies on this issue. The Bureau of African Affairs has taken the lead by asking every embassy in Africa to report on the conditions of local LGBT communities. And I’m asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority. (Applause.)

Today, we are joined by four human rights activists from Africa who are working to protect LGBT rights in their communities. I want to welcome them to the State Department and ask if they would stand: our four African activists. (Applause.) I thank you for the work you do, often in unfriendly, even dangerous circumstances, to advance the rights and dignity of all people.

Now, the United States is also focused on threats facing LGBT refugees. Eric Schwartz is working to increase protection for refugees who face persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Dr. Eric Goosby, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, is working to ensure that HIV prevention, treatment, and care are provided to all members of the LGBT population. For example, in the greater Mekong sub-region, we support the Purple Sky Network, which helps protect the health of gay men and transgender people who are too often overlooked or excluded from lifesaving social services.

And around the world, members of the U.S. Foreign Service continue to stand with LGBT communities in ways both large and small. There are two people who are not here that I want to mention and recognize, because they are indicative of both what people face as they fight for these rights and what our embassies and posts across the globe are doing to support them.

In Albania, a young man named Klodian Cela recently came out on a popular television program called Big Brother. Soon after, our ambassador, John Withers, went on television to publicly express support for this man. He visited his hometown and he invited him to an event at our Embassy, conveying to all Albanians that the United States supports his rights and respects his courage.

In Slovakia, at that nation’s first ever Pride Parade last month, our chargé, Keith Eddins, marched to represent the United States. There were anti-gay protestors who became violent and the police used tear gas, which our chargé and other diplomats were exposed to – a quite unpleasant experience, but in service to a just cause.

So as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here.

At the State Department, USAID, and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for the contributions of all of our team. And I just want to say thank you, thank you to those of you who serve, thank you for doing so by being open and honest about who you are and helping others see the dignity and purpose of every individual. Our work is demanding and we need every person to give 100 percent. And that means creating an environment in which everyone knows they are valued and feels free to make their contribution.

Last year, I received a petition with more than 2,200 signatures supporting equal benefits to same-sex partners. And I was delighted that soon after, the President signed an executive order to that effect. This month, the Bureau of Consular Affairs issued new regulations making it easier for transgender Americans to amend their passports, ensuring dignified and fair processing. And today, I’m pleased to announce that for the first time, gender identity will be included along with sexual orientation in the State Department Equal Employee Opportunity Statement. (Applause.)

Now, we know that a lot of work lies ahead, and I really want to challenge each and every one of you. Whether you’re LGBT or not, if you’re here, you obviously care about or at least were curious enough to come, and therefore are exhibiting an interest in what we are attempting to achieve here. And in looking at you and seeing a group of accomplished, successful, well-educated, professionally challenged people reminds me that many in our own country, let alone around the world, who are LGBT don’t have those tools, don’t have those assets to be able to speak for themselves, to stand up for themselves, to be in a position to claim who they are.

I used to, when I represented New York, have the great joy and honor of traveling across New York state, so I could go to a Pride Parade in New York City and then I could be a few days later somewhere in upstate New York, where someone would take me aside after an event and whisper their fears about the life they led and wonder whether there was anything we could do. And I used to remind my very activist friends in the Pride movement that they were doing this not for themselves, because basically many of them were well enough off to be able to construct a life that would be fairly immune from the outside world, but they were doing it for so many others who did not have that opportunity, that luxury, if you will.

Well, I still believe that. We’ve come such a far distance in our own country, but there are still so many who need the outreach, need the mentoring, need the support, to stand up and be who they are, and then think about people in so many countries where it just seems impossible. So I think that each and every one of you not only professionally, particularly from State and USAID in every bureau and every embassy and every part of our government, have to do what you can to create that safe space, but also personally to really look for those who might need a helping hand, particularly young people, particularly teenagers who still, today, have such a difficult time and who still, in numbers far beyond what should ever happen, take their own lives rather than live that life. So I would ask you to please think of ways you can be there for everyone who is making this journey to defend not only human rights globally, but to truly defend themselves and their rights. The struggle for equality is never, ever finished. And it is rarely easy, despite how self-evident it should be. But the hardest-fought battles often have the biggest impact. So I hope that each and every one of us will recommit ourselves to building a future in which every person – every, single person can live in dignity, free from violence, free to be themselves, free to live up to their God-given potential wherever they live and whoever they are. And I thank you for being part of one of history’s great moments.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Here is a link to the video.

Secretary Clinton Adds Gender Identity to State's Non-Discrimination Clause


Today's even with Secretary Clinton was just incredible. Hopefully, my teachers at FSI will forgive my brief absence, but boy was it worth it.

The big news, which we suspected would happen, was that she announced that she had added gender identity to the protected classes of the Department's non-discrimination clause. This is a great step!

But just in general, her speech was incredible. To have the Secretary of State address an audience of LGBT Foreign Service folks and allies was amazing. And the turnout was fabulous! More than 150 non-USG folks RSVP'd, and that doesn't include the USG folks who were there. The Loy Henderson Auditorium was standing room only...I would guess that there were at least 300 or more people there.

Particularly moving, at least to me, was this: "When you are in the midst of a great movement of change, it seems glacial. But it has been incredible what has been accomplished in so short a time....This is a human rights issue. Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights!"

Okay, can I just say I love her?

There was good press coverage of the event, both mainstream and LGBT media. I'll post the coverage as I find it, but for now, here is the CNN story on the event:

Clinton pledges to defend gay rights at home and abroad
By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

Washington (CNN) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to end violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians at home and abroad Tuesday, as the Obama administration moves to extend further benefits to gays working in the federal government.

"We are moving together in the right direction," said Clinton. "We reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights of all human beings."

Clinton drew several standing ovations from the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred during her address at an event co-hosted by the State Department's Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies. June has been recognized as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Speaking about the linkages between gay rights and U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said she is asking embassies in Africa and elsewhere to report on rights of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The State Department is also placing more attention on ensuring gays around the world have access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and providing protection for LBGT refugees.

The department is also providing grants to human rights activists who are persecuted either because they are gay or defend gay rights, she said.

"These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue," Clinton said. She drew more rousing applause when she declared "human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights," a variation on the phrase she famously delivered in Beijing 10 years ago declaring "women's rights are human rights."

Clinton said she is equally concerned about creating an environment at the State Department in which gay employees feel valued and "can give 100 percent." That is why, she said, she supported offering equal benefits to same-sex partners of State Department employees, a move that encouraged President Barack Obama to authorize such benefits for gays throughout the federal government.

She noted the State Department also has made it easier for transgender people to change their passports and, for the first time, the agency's "equal opportunity statement" will include gender identity and sexual preference.

The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday that gay workers will be able to take medical leave to care for the sick or newborn children of their same-sex partners as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which generally allows those working for companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 unpaid weeks off to care for newborns or children with serious health issues.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also were to attend a gay pride event later Tuesday at the White House.

Here are some links to more coverage:

Washington Blade: Clinton equates LGBT rights to human rights

GLAA Forum: Clinton speaks at State Dept. Pride celebration"

Dallas Voice: Secretary Clinton addresses State Department for Pride, saying gay rights are human rights

Pam's House Blend: Live Tweeting of Secretary of State Clinton's remarks on LGBT human rights and U.S foreign policy

Monday, June 21, 2010

Secretary Clinton and USAID Administrator Shah to Deliver Remarks at Event Celebrating LGBT Month

Just a reminder. Sadly, the deadline for non-USG folks to RSVP has passed...hope you made that call early!


Secretary Clinton and USAID Administrator Shah to Deliver Remarks at Event Celebrating LGBT Month on June 22

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/06/143363.htm
Office of the SpokesmanWashington, DC
June 18, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah will deliver opening remarks on “LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy” at an event co-hosted by State's Office of Civil Rights and GLIFAA, the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, on Tuesday, June 22 at 11:00 a.m., at the Department of State.

The event is part of LGBT Pride Month celebrations at the U.S. Department of State and USAID.

Following the opening remarks, Assistant Secretary for Populations, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz will lead a panel discussion with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Daniel Baer, Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality, and Cary Johnson of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The event will be open to credentialed members of the media and can be watched live on http://www.state.gov/.

Pre-set time for video cameras: 10:15 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.Final access time for journalists and still photographers: 10:45 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.

Media representatives may attend this event upon presentation of one of the following: (1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver's license, passport).

PRESS CONTACT:
GLIFAA Press Secretary Michelle Schohn schohnjm@state.gov
Department of StateOffice of Press Relations(202) 647-2492

Welcome to the 154th and 114th!

Today was the first day for the 154th A-100 and the latest specialist class (if someone out there knows the number, could you let me know? ON EDIT: Thanks to Anonymous for letting me know it is the 114th!).

I didn't get to see and say hi to any of the new folks because I am at FSI and the new classes now do their first day at Main State. And of course, tomorrow is the Secretary's talk on LGBT issues, so I'll be at Main State while they are at FSI! But I promise, I am not avoiding you!

Class so far is interesting, though there was a suggestion early in the day that we were not supposed to eat or drink in the class. That we should consider ourselves warned in case the powers that be come by and "arrest" us.

I said I was far more likely to be arrested if I didn't get my caffeine!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Moving Day

Tomorrow is the beginning of the next A-100 for FS Generalists and Specialists, and so, as has become my routine, today is the transfer of blogs.

Moving from the Future FS blogroll to the FS blogroll are:

Adam and Jill Run 2 New Places

Foreign Service Specialist - My OMS Journey

Gia Dinh Vinh Cuu

Throwing Off The Bowlines

Welcome to the Foreign Service and I hope you have a wonderful first post and career!

If I have missed anyone, give me a shout and I will add them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

INTERNational Connections

I got this in my email Friday and thought some of you might be interested:

I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to a relatively new Department site, INTERNational Connections.

INTERNational Connections, the Department’s web-based career networking site, is designed for employees and current and former interns to stay connected. Participants are encouraged to provide pertinent information about themselves, their experiences and their career goals.

The Department’s student internship programs provide a key source of potential candidates who have an interest in, and are qualified, to become future Department employees. Naturally, HR/REE wants to strengthen and maintain its connections to this group, fostering and mentoring a pool of candidates from which to obtain successful recruits. HR/REE developed an intern engagement strategy to assist in maintaining these connections. The foundation of this strategy is INTERNational Connections.

There are currently over 1,200 active users; we’re planning to send an email invitation to over 5,000 former Student Programs participants (see email invite from Secretary Clinton attached). We also have an aggressive content plan which will ensure that there are regular (almost daily) updates to keep users engaged.

One of our immediate goals is to increase the amount of user participation on INTERNational Connections, particularly on the forums. As with any online community, it’s challenging to get users to be the first to participate on a new platform. We’re hoping to leverage the many interns throughout the Department with whom you have personal relationships and encourage them to start or join a thread on the discussion boards.

Akash Suri, the new Content Manager for INTERNational Connections, has provided a few ideas for posts that you can share with interns, Co-ops, Stay-in-Schoolers, Pickerings, and any other Student Program participants to help us jump-start the community. Please don’t hesitate to start your own discussion.

Please share this note with your colleagues and encourage them to start new discussions and engage in established conversations.

A Few Suggested Ideas:

· “______ Bureau Interns, Unite!” – A gathering place for past and present interns from a particular bureau to discuss their experiences and discuss bureau-specific topics
· Share a job/fellowship/scholarship/internship opportunity –INTERNational Connections is all about working together to advance career opportunities, so share any interesting opportunities you come across. Don’t think of it as increasing the amount of competition, as you’ll almost certainly learn of more opportunities than you’ll share.

· Form a group to attend an upcoming lecture or event – Chances are, there are other interns interested in the same things as you are, so if you’re headed to a talk at Brookings, SAIS, Carnegie or any of the numerous other think tanks, spread the word and go together.

· Share tips on life in D.C. – The “Life inside the Beltway” forum is the perfect place to share info on your new favorite restaurant or a hidden attraction. Remember, most interns are new to D.C., so share information to get the most out of your time in the city.

Here is a letter from Secretary Clinton about the site:

INTERNational Connections reconnects you – a former student program participant – with the U.S. Department of State. This network was designed specifically for you to find individuals who have shared the same experiences, learning first-hand about American diplomacy and its role in the world. It provides an exclusive platform where you can network with Foreign Service Officers, Foreign Service Specialists, Civil Service professionals, and participants from all of our student programs; all of whom are committed to public service and contributing to our global society.

We need people like you to share your knowledge and creativity to:

· help rebuild the global economy
· protect our environment
· defeat violent extremism
· build a future in which every human being can reach his or her full potential

We will meet these challenges, enhance our security, advance our interests, and reflect our values with a diverse team of experienced professionals. The U.S. Department of State must reflect the full strength of American talent which you represent. Our aim is to strengthen our workforce with Americans who understand and appreciate a variety of cultures, languages, and perspectives.

Your participation in this community will enhance its richness – and give you an opportunity to tell us about your career goals and aspirations and the knowledge, skills and experiences you’ve achieved since you worked with us. Take these easy steps to join our exclusive community:

· Go to careers.state.gov/internconnect - to register. Click "create a new account." On the next screen, you can choose your choose your username and password. You will receive a confirmation e-mail within 24-48 hours indicating your information has been validated. You now have access to the system and can start connecting immediately.

· After logging in, click the "My Profile" link on the upper left and then enter your personal information - you’ll have an opportunity to tell everyone more about yourself and your career aspirations.

· Take the time to explore INTERNational Connections and start chatting with other interns located throughout the world. Make sure to check out the Knowledge Corner and visit daily to see the latest Bulletin.

Welcome back to the U.S. Department of State.

Sincerely,
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Friday, June 18, 2010

New GLIFAA website!

If you haven't checked it out lately, go to the GLIFAA website.

It has been entirely redesigned by one of the GLIFAA members who also has mad computer skilz!

It looks fabluous!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grading the Feds on LGBT Issues: Three Bs, Two Cs, and Three Ds

South Florida Gay News had this piece yesterday grading Federal Agencies on LGBT issues. The Department of State was one of the highest scorers, with an overall grade of B.

Grading the Feds on LGBT Issues: Three Bs, Two Cs, and Three Ds

A panel of six LGBT activist leaders were asked in April to give a grade to the Obama administration thus far on LGBT issues. Three panelists gave the administration a “D,” two gave it a “B,” and one a “C.” Keen News Service decided to take a look at eight major federal departments and apply a similar grading system.

The result was strikingly similar to that which emerged from the April 22 LGBT Leadership Townhall panel, hosted by Sirius XM Radio’s Michelangelo Signorile Show. The panel’s average came to 1.8 on a scale that gives 1 point for a D and 4 for an A. Looking at the Obama administration’s major departments, the KNS analysis came up with a 2.0.

The Departments of State and Housing and Urban Development each earned a “B” from KNS, a grade given for taking significant steps toward equal rights for LGBT people, even if some inequities remain. Health and Human Services and the Office of Personnel Management each earned a “C,” given for taking some steps toward equal rights and making no efforts to obstruct equality, while many or major inequities remain within that department’s purview. And Defense, Justice, and Education each earned a “D,” for taking few steps toward improving equal rights and making some efforts to obstruct such rights.

None of the departments warranted an “A,” for taking significant and comprehensive steps toward improving equal rights for LGBT people—or an “F,” for doing nothing to improve equal rights for LGBT people and also taking steps to block such equality.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE (DOS) GRADE: B

The DOS said it would provide the same benefits to the same-sex partners of foreign service employees sent abroad as it does to opposite-sex spouses, including diplomatic passports, use of U.S. medical facilities, emergency evacuation, and training at the Foreign Service Institute.

Two major items are not covered, how- ever: health care and retirement benefits. President Obama, in a memo requesting partner benefits for federal employees, stated that federal law prevents his administration from extending those benefits.

DOS has additionally changed its policy so that a person in a legal same-sex marriage can apply for a new passport using his or her taken (married) surname.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly decried Uganda’s proposed harsh anti-gay bill and spoken directly with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about it.

Karl Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, testified at a January House hearing on the Ugandan bill and said the U.S. embassy in Uganda has been working with the Ugandan government and local gay and lesbian groups to stop the legislation. The DOS also issued a statement condemning the Malawi government’s sentencing of a couple—a gay man and a transgender woman—to 14 years of hard labor for “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.”

The DOS worked with President Obama to appoint David Huebner as U.S.Ambassador to New Zealand in December 2009. Huebner is the first openly gay person to be appointed to an ambassadorship in the Obama administration, and the third in U.S. history.

Digger Comments:
I have to say that I find it unfair to grade the Department down for not offering benefits that it is not legally allowed to offer. Secretary Clinton addressed every inequility faced by LGBT employees and their families that it was within her power to affect. And her staff continues to meet with GLIFAA regularly to address any issues arising. I'd have given us an A.

Department Notice: Pride Month Celebration with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Pride Month Celebration with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Please join Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) and the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) on:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Harry S Truman Building

For a discussion on LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy with opening remarks by

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

A panel discussion following the Secretary's remarks will feature:
Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council for Global Equality
Cary Johnson, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

All interested State Department and USAID personnel are invited to attend. Non-USG guests may also attend by contacting Verena Sander (S/OCR) at 202-647-9040 or at sanderv@state.gov to register.

GLIFAA is the officially recognized organization representing the concerns of LGBT personnel and their families at the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and other foreign affairs offices in the U.S. Government. GLIFAA is open to all employees, foreign service, civil service, and contractors. To find out more information, please visit: http://www.glifaa.org.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Secretary Clinton Addresses GLIFAA Members on LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy

Needless to say, I am excited about this:

Secretary Clinton Addresses GLIFAA Members on LGBT Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy

When: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 11:00am - 12:00pm

Where: Loy Henderson Auditorium, Main State, 2201 C Street NW

Metro: Foggy Bottom

Secretary Clinton will speak on integrating LGBT human rights with U.S. foreign policy and speakers from the Council for Global Equality and other LGBT human rights groups will hold a panel.

Please email glifaa@glifaa.org for more information.

Note: You must arrive by 10:30 am.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Winding Down

I have just over two days left in my current office.

And I have NOTHING to do.

My replacement arrived two weeks before my departure, a rare gift in the Foreign Service. For the first week, she watched me as I did my work. This week, she is doing it herself. I am only here to answer questions.

And she hasn't had any.

So here I am, no office (I found a random place with a computer in a corner to sit), no work. Waiting around to see if questions come. Waiting for the week to end (though I will miss every single person in this office...the folks here are GREAT!) so I can celebrate my birthday this weekend and start training at FSI next week.

Not to say that it isn't worth it (it is) but for those about to start A-100 next week, and those waiting through the various stages of joining the Foreign Service, be warned: the waiting never ends. All the waiting for your written test results, QEP results, Oral Assessment date, clearances, arrival on the register, "the call" and finally the start of your A-100, those are all preparation. Soon, you will be waiting for the bid list, your assignment, your tenure, your promotion, your orders, your transfer date, your HHE. Or like me, for the week to end.

I think it may be possible to die of boredom.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Advocate: View From Washington: Pride?

Kerry Eleveld has a piece in the Advocate about the advances the Administration has made on LGBT issues. She writes:

"Last week, the Obama administration made what is arguably one of the largest federal equality advancements for transgender Americans in the history of this country when it revised an antiquated passport policy to allow people to accurately declare their gender identity without having undergone gender reassignment surgery.

Unsurprisingly, the change emanated from the Department of State, where secretary Hillary Clinton has continually used her authority to the fullest extent possible to advance equality on behalf of the global community’s minorities and most disadvantaged – not least of which include women and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals here at home and around the world.

In fact, the State Department exceeded Mara Keisling’s expectations. Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she had expected to see the policy emerge by the end of the year. “It came faster than I thought,” she marveled.

This change absolutely happened on the Obama administration’s watch and President Barack Obama deserves credit for it, but I can’t help but note the pattern that has developed at the State Department and draw some conclusions. Chief among them is what’s possible when the top few decision makers at State – including secretary Clinton herself – are more inclined to make an unabashed push on behalf of equality rather than a tepid one."

You can read the entire piece here.

Back to something completely different

So I am still running.

I'll wait while you pick yourself up off of the floor.

I finished the Couch to 5K program (which is great, and if you don't run but want to, you should try it. You can find the program here.) and ran my first 5K on June 5th (the Race for the Cure in DC).

You can get back off the floor now. Or just stay there, you may end up hurting yourself if you keep falling over.

I was really slow, but I did it. And it felt pretty good.

So I've signed up for the Marine Corps 10K.

See, I told you to stay on the floor.

I am currently running three days a week for about 30 minutes. I can run for 30 minutes now without stopping (at the beginning of April, running for one minute was hard, so this is a big deal). But now, I am doing intervals to increase my speed. So I run for a minute, walk for a minute. It has increased my pre-race pace by about 2.5 minutes per mile. I'm still really slow, but I am pleased with the improvement. and I really think the 10K will be doable. and I have until October 31 to train.

I am really liking running, and am beginning to see changes in my body too. And this is a sport I can do even when overseas. Which is nice.

I am beginning to think that getting a hat like my wife's is within reach.

Though my new goal is to run a marathon before I head back overseas in 2011, probably the Shamrock Marathon (which is where my wife got her hat for the 1/2 marathon), so the hat I would get will be even cooler.

Yeah, just stay on the floor.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Eric Nelson

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson is currently assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as deputy management counselor of the U.S. Mission in Pakistan. In September 2010, Mr. Nelson will be become the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose. Mr. Nelson served as the U.S. consul general in Munich, Germany from 2006-2009. As consul general, he worked to expand and strengthen partnerships between Bavaria and the United States, focusing on security cooperation, citizen diplomacy, and business and investment ties. His leadership in the usage of new media technologies for outreach and operations while in Germany won honorable mention in 2009 from the State Department’s Innovation in the Usage of Technology Award committee. Mr. Nelson also received the “IDIZEM Dialogue Prize 2008” in Munich in recognition of his engagement for inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

Since joining the Foreign Service in 1990, Mr. Nelson has also served in Washington in the Office of Global Support Services and Innovation and as a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Administration, as the management consul in Milan, Budget and Finance Attaché in Mexico City, and as a vice consul in Frankfurt and Santo Domingo. He has received the Department of State's Superior Honor Award three times and the Meritorious Honor Award six times. In 1992, Mr. Nelson was a founding member of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA).

Mr. Nelson began his career in public service as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math and science in Liberia, West Africa from 1984-1985. Before joining the Foreign Service, he was a marketing and finance consultant to U.S. Agency for International Development projects in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Liberia.

Mr. Nelson, a resident of Texas, graduated from Rice University of Houston, Texas, in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering. In 1988, Mr. Nelson received a Master of business administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is fluent in Italian, German and Spanish.

Friday, June 11, 2010

GLIFAA at DC Pride!

You know you can't think of any way to be any cooler than hanging out with LGBT diplomats, right?
So then why resist? Come join the GLIFAA Pride Reception & Parade tomorrow.

Members, friends, partners, and allies are all welcome to to join us for our annual pre-Pride parade reception, and then to head with us to the march! We'll have drinks and munchies (because you should be well-hydrated for the march. We will even have GLIFAA T-shirts on hand for you to buy if you want to look like the rest of us! Or, if you need to march to your own drummer, make your own at the Party!

The party will start at 3 on Saturday at 2147 N Street NW Apt. #C (Metro: Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle...as if you didn't know that!). the parade begins at 6:30 not far from the party, so we will walk over together.


And join us Sunday too, at the Capitol Pride Street Festival. GLIFAA will have a booth telling people about our organization and about careers at the State Department and USAID.

The festival is at Pennsylvania Ave Between 3rd and 7th Streets NW (Metro: Navy Archives) from 11:00am-6:00pm. Just look for the GLIFAA Development and Diplomacy Banner.

I'll be there and I hope to see you too!

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Kendra Phillips

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Kendra Phillips

Kendra Phillips is a USAID career Foreign Service Officer in Population, Health and Nutrition. She currently is in Washington awaiting her next assignment as Director, Eastern Caribbean Regional HIV/AIDS Program in Barbados. She previously served as Deputy Director, Office of Health in USAID/India (2007-2010), and Director, Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Program in USAID/South Africa (2003-2007).

Before USAID, Kendra had a 10-year health career in the U.S. She was Director of HIV Community Planning, Chicago Department of Health (1997-2001), Research Associate, Maternal and Child Health Enhanced Analytical Skills Program (2003-2007), and a Pediatric/HIV/AIDS Nurse (1988-2003). She also was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, Africa (1985-1987). Kendra holds degrees in anthropology, nursing and public health.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Policy on Gender Change in Passports Announced

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release June 9, 2010

New Policy on Gender Change in Passports Announced

The U.S. Department of State is pleased to use the occasion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month to announce its new policy guidelines regarding gender change in passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad.

Beginning June 10, when a passport applicant presents a certification from an attending medical physician that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, the passport will reflect the new gender. The guidelines include detailed information about what information the certification must include. It is also possible to obtain a limited-validity passport if the physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition. No additional medical records are required. Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad can also be amended with the new gender.

As with all passport applicants, passport issuing officers at embassies and consulates abroad and domestic passport agencies and centers will only ask appropriate questions to obtain information necessary to determine citizenship and identity.

The new policy and procedures are based on standards and recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), recognized by the American Medical Association as the authority in this field.

ON EDIT: The Cable has a nice piece on this.

2010 LGBT Pride Month: J. Michelle Schohn and Mary E. Glantz

2010 LGBT 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 served as the Russia desk internal political affairs officer. She is currently the Poland desk officer. Ms. Schohn served on the INR Watch and as the special assistant to the INR Front Office and is currently the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. In June, Ms. Schohn will begin long-term Estonian language training at FSI.

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, N.C. in 2002.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Ken Seifert

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Ken Seifert

Ken Seifert is a new Foreign Service Officer at USAID and has recently been posted to Tegucigalpa, Honduras as an executive officer.

Mr. Seifert joined USAID in 2006 after entering the Presidential Management Fellowship Program during which he served as a program analyst at the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since joining USAID, Ken served as the Honduras and Guatemala desk officer for over a year and on the West Bank and Gaza Desk for three years. During this time, Ken served as a representative of the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Bureau on the Haiti Response Management Team following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and on the Lebanon Response Management Team (RMT) following the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006.

Ken is a published author ("The Rising Storm") and is highly interested in issues of diversity. Ken serves as agency-wide equal employment opportunity (EEO) counselor at USAID and has served on other agency diversity panels and committees. In 2010, Ken created a Pride Information Packet for posts worldwide and will serve as the GLIFAA Post Rep while in Honduras.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Marriage equality for all couples

This is an excellent editorial that ran in today's Washington Post.

Marriage equality for all couples

By John D. Podesta and Robert A. Levy
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nearly a century after the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that "marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man.' " That 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia, ended bans on interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had such laws.

Now, 43 years after Loving, the courts are once again grappling with denial of equal marriage rights -- this time to gay couples. We believe that a society respectful of individual liberty must end this unequal treatment under the law.

Toward that goal, we have agreed to co-chair the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The foundation helped launch the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which is currently before a federal district court in California but is likely to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Perry case -- scheduled for closing arguments next Wednesday -- was brought by two couples whose relationships are marked by the sort of love, commitment and respect that leads naturally to marriage. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and their four children, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, ask for no more, and deserve no less, than the equal rights accorded to every other American family. But they are blocked from obtaining marriage licenses under California's Proposition 8.

The plaintiffs' legal team, headed by former Bush v. Gore antagonists Theodore Olson and David Boies, has demonstrated that no good reason exists for the denial of fundamental civil rights under Proposition 8. We support that position.

Although we serve, respectively, as president of a progressive and chairman of a libertarian think tank, we are not joining the foundation's advisory board to present a "bipartisan" front. Rather, we have come together in a nonpartisan fashion because the principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the core of our nation's character. This is not about politics; it's about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.

Over more than two centuries, minorities in America have gradually experienced greater freedom and been subjected to fewer discriminatory laws. But that process unfolded with great difficulty.

As the country evolved, the meaning of one small word -- "all" -- has evolved as well. Our nation's Founders reaffirmed in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that "all Men are created equal," and our Pledge of Allegiance concludes with the simple and definitive words "liberty and justice for all." Still, we have struggled mightily since our independence, often through our courts, to ensure that liberty and justice is truly available to all Americans.

Thanks to the genius of our Framers, who separated power among three branches of government, our courts have been able to take the lead -- standing up to enforce equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution -- even when the executive and legislative branches, and often the public as well, were unwilling to confront wrongful discrimination.

Indeed, the Supreme Court issued its Loving ruling in the face of widespread opposition. A Gallup poll taken within months of the decision found that 74 percent of the American public "disapproved" of interracial marriage. Nevertheless, the court vindicated those constitutional rights to which every American is entitled. As we look back, the Loving decision is hailed as an example of the best in American jurisprudence.

In terms of public opinion, courts addressing marriage equality have less of a hill to climb. Opposition to same-sex marriage pales next to the intense hostility the court faced before its ruling in Loving. A February Post poll showed 47 percent support for same-sex marriage (up from 37 percent support in the same poll in 2003). The Post poll also showed that the younger an individual is, the more likely he or she is to favor marriage equality, regardless of political persuasion. Among individuals ages 18 to 29, an estimated 65 percent support marriage equality.

Our history will soon be written by young people who are seizing the reins from the baby boomers. They seem prepared to reject laws that serve no purpose other than to deny two committed and loving individuals the right to join in a mutually reinforcing marital relationship.

The decision in Perry depends, of course, on values far more permanent and important than opinion polls. No less than the constitutional rights of millions of Americans are at stake. But the public appears to be catching up with the Constitution. Just a little more leadership from the courts would be the perfect prescription for a free society.

John D. Podesta is founder and president of the Center for American Progress. Robert A. Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute.

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Danny Hall

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Danny Hall

Danny Hall is the management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in London.

He joined the State Department in 1989 after working as an architect in New Orleans, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, and running his own small business in Dallas. He is a registered architect and received an MBA from Yale in 1988. Since joining State, he has served in the Dominican Republic, Paris, Slovenia, Washington, PRT Jalalabad in Afghanistan, and now London. Danny was one of the founders of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), and served as President in 1995-96. Danny was an officer on the Board of the American Foreign Service Association from 2002-2004. He received the Arnold Raphel Award in 2007 for his work with entry level officers.

Danny married Graham James in Westminster Town Hall in London on May 12, 2008. Graham is an actor who has just finished a year- long run in Agatha Christie’s “The Mouse Trap,” at the St. Martin’s Theatre in London. They are both looking forward to their next posting in Helsinki, Finland, where Danny will serve as Deputy Chief of Mission. Both Danny and Graham applaud the efforts of all those who have worked so hard to make recognition of our families possible.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Secretary of State’s 2010 LGBT Pride Proclamation

The Secretary of State’s 2010 LGBT Pride Proclamation

This June, we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. I join President Obama in recognizing the immeasurable contributions of the LGBT community both in the United States and around the world. In honor of LGBT Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend my appreciation to all those who work on behalf of human rights for all. At the State Department, USAID, and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our LGBT 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.

The United States also recognizes the unflagging efforts and courage of advocates and organizations fighting to promote equality and justice around the world, especially in countries where doing so puts their lives and their families at risk.
Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who that person is or who that person loves. The State Department is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence. We have specifically included the status of the human rights of LGBT individuals in our annual Human Rights Report in each country. We are working to protect LGBT people across the world, particularly those forced to flee their homes or countries. And the State Department will continue to counter efforts, anywhere they occur, to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize members of the LGBT community.

We have made significant progress but we still have challenging work ahead. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face horrific violence and repression around the world. Pride marches are often met with active and armed government resistance. Laws banning sexual orientation and gender expression undermine civil society, the rule of law, and public health outreach. The persecution and violation of human rights of members of the LGBT community is not only an affront to human dignity, but it also diminishes human progress and potential. As Secretary of State, I will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Let us recommit ourselves this year to building a future in which every child, whoever and wherever they are, has the opportunity, dignity, and freedom to fulfill his or her God-given potential.

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Ajit Joshi

2010 LGBT 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 (nongovernment organization) 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.

As Policy Director of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), Mr. Joshi delivered the acceptance speech when GLIFAA was recognized as the 2009 Employee Resource Group of the Year by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; Secretary Clinton recommended GLIFAA for the award and also videotaped a congratulatory speech for the award ceremony.

Mr. Joshi has served as a collateral duty equal employment opportunity (EEO) counselor, published the article, "Achieving Full Diversity in the Foreign Service," in the Foreign Service Journal, and has received several USAID awards for launching initiatives to improve diversity and foster a culture of inclusion - a Superior Accomplishment Award for Special Acts and Suggestions, an Equal Employment Opportunity Award, and a Group Certificate of Appreciation.

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, Mr. Joshi serves on the Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, teaches yoga and meditation, and loves the outdoors.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Sheryl (Sherry) Smith

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Sheryl (Sherry) Smith

In November 1954, I was born as the second oldest of ten children. I joined the US Army in January 1973 and was honorably discharged in March 1978.


I searched for a full time job with the Federal Government, but there was a hiring freeze, so I operated a small bar/ hotel in my hometown. I finally obtained a temporary job in 1980 as a GS-03, Clerk with the US Army Recruiting station at the Federal Building in Syracuse, NY. I then went to work for the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in October 1980. In July 1989, I transferred from New York to Florida. During my tenure at DCMA, I served in positions as either an administrative contracting officer or as a property administrator.

I worked with INL/RM in 1994 and 1995, and came back from DOD in November 2004. I work as a property administrator and travel to countries such as Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Afghanistan. My job of oversight on the Air Wing program is to ensure that all government property, which includes aircraft (both fixed and rotary wing) and parts / supplies, are properly controlled and accounted for on a program that is worth over $1.5 Billion.

I obtained my Master’s Degree in Contract Management in December 2005 and now have almost 36 years with the U.S. Government.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Steven Giegerich

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Steven Giegerich

Steven Giegerich joined the Foreign Service in 1991, has served in Athens, Nassau, Tashkent, Vancouver, MFO Sinai, Frankfurt, Pretoria and is currently the visa chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has an MBA from Simon Fraser University.

Steve grew up in Cleveland and worked for several years in international banking in New York. An avid reader and traveler, Steve also enjoys running, scuba, swimming, skiing and is captain of the Consulate Dragonboat team. He speaks Spanish, Swedish, Greek, Russian and French.

In May 2009, Steve published an article in the Foreign Service Journal outlining the inequities faced by dual national same-sex Foreign Service couples. His partner of seven years, Daniel, is a citizen of both France and Canada and has accompanied him on four overseas assignments.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Diplomats Tap Into Social Media

Diplomats Tap Into Social Media

WASHINGTON: Teenagers clicked away on their cell phones in a bustling Iranian marketplace. Ignoring the cold, they exchanged information about parties, dates and potential bandmates with strangers, using Bluetooth technology.

It is this type of simple adaptation of social networking that is key to U.S. public diplomacy efforts, said Jared Cohen, a member of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's policy planning staff. Cohen recalled visiting Iran about five years ago while researching a book and seeing young Iranians in the southwestern city of Shiraz busily texting each other. Communicating, but no one was talking.

Diplomats with decades of experience and knowledge need to work with the under-30 age group that is deftly using Internet-based communication technology, Cohen said. Traditional channels of diplomacy are fine, but they will need an assist from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to succeed.

"They're an incredible resource that needs to be harnessed," Cohen said during a lecture sponsored by Ogilvy Public Relations.

Cohen noted a few powerful examples. After the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, text messaging was crucial to collecting donations for emergency relief. In Afghanistan, Cohen said, he encountered inmates who smuggled in cell phones to organize riots.

And, Cohen said, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe pointed out that the most recent major demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known by the Spanish acronym FARC, could not have happened without social networking, specifically Facebook, to organize protests with millions of supporters worldwide.

The U.S. government also should recognize these "tools for empowerment" can be used with good or bad intentions, Cohen said, adding that there is no better time than now to influence these new technologies.

Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, agreed. Seated on the front row for Cohen's remarks, Cerf said new communication technologies are platforms for conversations that otherwise would not have taken place.

The Obama administration is "the first administration I can think of that has engaged this deeply the use of technology in the State Department," Cerf said.

FSI Announces: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community in Foreign Affairs Agencies Workshop

FSI Announces: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community in Foreign Affairs Agencies Workshop

This Transition Center workshop will highlight the unique situations that affect LGBT employees and their families overseas and help them understand and work with relevant USG policies
.
WHERE AND WHEN: Transition Center, FSI, 4000 Arlington BLVD, Arlington, VA on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 from 6:00 pm- 8:30 pm.

WHO MAY ATTEND: Open to all foreign affairs agency employees, eligible family members and members of household.

NON-STATE TUITION: No charge

HOW TO APPLY: Provide the name, agency and contact information of the attendee to FSITCTraining@state.gov

For more information: About this workshop and other FSI Transition Center courses, check our website at http://fsi.state.gov/fsi/tc/

QUESTIONS: For any questions about this workshop please contact Archana Dheer at dheera@state.gov

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Clayton Bond and Ted Osius

2010 LGBT 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.

Ted is Deputy Chief of Mission in Jakarta, Indonesia and Clayton is assistant general services officer in Singapore. From 2006 to 2009, 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. Prior to that, 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, and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Clayton served previously as a recruiter for the State Department, covering the Southeast U.S., and as a consular officer in Bogotá, Colombia.

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.

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.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Statement by the President on the Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

Statement by the President on the Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

“Last year, I issued a Presidential Memorandum that instructed the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State to extend certain available benefits they had identified to gay & lesbian federal employees and their families under their respective jurisdictions. Among those benefits were long-term care insurance and expanded sick leave for civil service employees and medical care abroad, eligibility for employment at posts, cost-of-living adjustments abroad and medical evacuation for domestic partners of foreign service members. In that same Memorandum, I called upon the federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review and to identify any additional benefits that
could be extended to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees under existing law. That process has now concluded, and I am proud to announce that earlier today, I signed a Memorandum that requires Executive agencies to take immediate action to extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees a number of meaningful benefits, from family assistance services to hardship transfers to relocation expenses. It also requires agencies that extend any new benefits to employees’ opposite-sex spouses to make those benefits available on equal terms to employees’ same-sex domestic partners to
the extent permitted by law.

While this Memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my
Administration continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That is why, today, I renew my call for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress -- the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. This legislation, championed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees’ opposite-sex spouses. I look forward to signing it into law."

Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

This memo, which was released yesterday, extends a few more rights and benefits to same-sex couples. It is a step towards equality, but we are far from there (what does this leave now, 1,130 benefits we don't receive?). Meanwhile, my wife and I yesterday had to spend $1,500 to make sure we have the same protections any other couple would have by virtue of being married. And even then, I know there are those who would chose to ignore such things as medical powers of attorney simply because they don't "approve" of our "lifestyle" (such as in the Florida case, where the woman whose wife of 17 years was dying in the hospital was not permitted access to her spouse even though she had medical power of attorney).

Someday, I hope, we will be full citizens.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 2, 2010

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

For far too long, many of our Government's hard-working, dedicated LGBT employees have been denied equal access to the basic rights and benefits their colleagues enjoy. This kind of systemic inequality undermines the health, well-being, and security not just of our Federal workforce, but also of their families and communities. That is why, last June, I directed the heads of executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to
conduct a thorough review of the benefits they provide and to identify any that could be extended to LGBT employees and their partners and families. Although legislative action is necessary to provide full equality to LGBT Federal employees, the agencies have identified a number of benefits that can be extended under existing law. OPM, in consultation with the Department of Justice, has provided me with a report recommending that all of the identified benefits be extended.

Accordingly, I hereby direct the following:

Section 1. Immediate Actions To Extend Benefits.
Agencies should immediately take the following actions, consistent with existing law, in order to extend benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees, and, where applicable, to the children of same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees:

(a) The Director of OPM should take appropriate action to:

(i) clarify that the children of employees' same-sex domestic partners fall within the definition of "child" for purposes of Federal child-care subsidies, and, where appropriate, for child-care services;

(ii) clarify that, for purposes of employee assistance programs, same-sex domestic partners and their children qualify as "family members";

(iii) issue a proposed rule that would clarify that employees' same-sex domestic partners qualify as "family members" for purposes of noncompetitive appointments made pursuant to Executive Order 12721 of July 30, 1990;

(iv) issue a proposed rule that would add a Federal retiree's same-sex domestic partner to the list of individuals presumed to have an insurable interest in the employee pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8339(k)(1), 8420;

(v) clarify that under appropriate circumstances, employees' same-sex domestic partners and their children qualify as dependents for purposes of evacuation payments made under 5 U.S.C. 5522-5523;

(vi) amend its guidance on implementing President Clinton's April 11, 1997, memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies on "Expanded Family and Medical Leave Policies" to specify that the 24 hours of unpaid leave made available to Federal employees in connection with (i) school and early childhood educational activities; (ii) routine family medical purposes; and (iii) elderly relatives' health or care needs, may be used to meet the needs of an employee's same-sex domestic partner or the same-sex domestic partner's children; and

(vii) clarify that employees' same-sex domestic partners qualify as dependents for purposes of calculating the extra allowance payable under 5 U.S.C. 5942a to assist employees stationed on Johnston Island, subject to any limitations applicable to spouses.

(b) The Administrator of General Services should take appropriate action to amend the definitions of "immediate family" and "dependent" appearing in the Federal Travel Regulations, 41 C.F.R. Chs. 300-304, to include same-sex domestic partners and their children, so that employees and their domestic partners and children can obtain the full benefits available under applicable law, including certain travel, relocation, and subsistence payments.

(c) All agencies offering any of the benefits specified by OPM in implementing guidance under section 3 of this memorandum, including credit union membership, access to fitness facilities, and access to planning and counseling services, should take all appropriate action to provide the same level of benefits that is provided to employees' spouses and their children to employees' same-sex domestic partners and their children.

(d) All agencies with authority to provide benefits to employees outside of the context of title 5, United States Code should take all appropriate actions to ensure that the benefits being provided to employees' spouses and their children are also being provided, at an equivalent level wherever permitted by law, to their employees' same-sex domestic partners and their children.

Sec. 2. Continuing Obligation To Provide New Benefits.
In the future, all agencies that provide new benefits to the spouses of Federal employees and their children should, to the extent permitted by law, also provide them to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees and those same-sex domestic partners' children. This section applies to appropriated and nonappropriated fund instrumentalities of such agencies.

Sec. 3. Monitoring and Guidance.
The Director of OPM shall monitor compliance with this memorandum, and may instruct agencies to provide the Director with reports on the status of their compliance, and prescribe the form and manner of such reports. The Director of OPM shall also issue guidance to ensure consistent and appropriate implementation.

Sec. 4. Reporting.
By April 1, 2011, and annually thereafter, the Director of OPM shall provide the President with a report on the progress of the agencies in implementing this memorandum until such time as all recommendations have been appropriately implemented.

Sec. 5. General Provisions.
(a) Except as expressly stated herein, 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. 6. Publication.
The Director of OPM is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Patrick Wingate

2010 LGBT 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. Patrick is currently consular chief in Tbilisi, Georgia.

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

Patrick and his partner, Rami Shakra, were married in Canada in September 2003, and their two children 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.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Anthony Cotton

Starting today, I will post one of the Pride Month bios per day until I have posted them all.

2010 LGBT Pride Month: Anthony Cotton

Anthony Cotton is a Presidential Management Fellow on the Project Development Team in the Office of Development Credit at the United States Agency for International Development, and the incoming Policy Director for Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

After earning his undergraduate business degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Anthony studied the Zulu language and culture on a Fulbright scholarship in South Africa. He then joined the Peace Corps and served as a small enterprise development volunteer in Ghana, where he developed and managed community-based cultural tourism projects. Anthony subsequently was a Peace Corps Fellow at Fordham University, where he earned master’s degrees in international development and economics.