Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections of the Decade

As the decade draws to a close, like many others, I've been thinking about everything that has transpired over the past 10 years.

For me personally, just over a month before the beginning of the decade, I started seeing M. In 2002, she joined the Foreign Service, and before she left for Azerbaijan, we were married in our church. In 2004, I followed her into the Foreign Service, and in 2005, we bought our first home together. From 2005-2007, we served together in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was hard, and we came back to DC to leave the service, but landed in jobs that made us decide to stay. While we were here, we were able to be party to the negotiations for benefits to address the inequities faced by Foreign Service families. And thanks to the benefits Secretary Clinton extended to us, M and I are now an official tandem couple.

Last month, on our tenth anniversary together, M and I made the trek to Massachusetts and were legally married.

So this decade has brought me to the love of my life, good jobs in a weak economy, legal marriage, and two of our four pets. I have no complaints. And we have a great onward assignment, so I am optimistic about the next decade.

Gays and lesbians have made some gains in the past decade. For the first time, we have legal marriage in five states. Domestic partnerships and civil unions in others. Barring Congressional interference, DC, which already recognizes marriages from other states, will join the march toward marriage equality. We have made other advances as well, but they have been uneven, and there is so much more to be done.

Let's hope in the next year, we see more significant advances in equality, like the passage of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And that before the end of the next decade, we see the repeal DOMA and see gays and lesbians live in full equality throughout the U.S.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Opposite-sex partners in the Foreign Service Want Benefits Too

This should come as no surprise to anyone. But here is the one thing unwed heterosexual couples seem to dismiss. They CAN get married. And as soon as they do, they get all the rights afforded same-sex couples and then some (like, oh, I don't know, health insurance? Pension inheritance?). Same-sex couples, even when they are legally married don't get any of those rights. Some of them have argued that the Department is trying to "force" them to get married. I wish the Department would "force" me to get married...oh wait. I AM MARRIED. Legally married. And I still had to fill out an affidavit to get the partner benefits in the Department because my marriage doesn't count.

So pardon me if I lack sympathy.

Oh, and from what I have heard, it is actually conservatives who are pushing this. Our "natural allies" are the unwitting tools of the religious right, who know that allowing benefits to opposite sex partners will not only make all of the benefits run afoul of DOMA, but will make the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) prohibitively expensive. So we won't be able to receive ANY of the benefits that they could get by a quick trip to Vegas. But they won't lose the ability to get married.

Benefits for gays? Us too, say the unwed
Opposite-sex partners in the Foreign Service say they should be treated the same.
By Paul Richter
LA Times

Reporting from Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton won praise in June after pushing to extend many federal benefits traditionally provided to diplomats' spouses to gay and lesbian partners.

Since then, unmarried heterosexual couples have been lining up to ask for benefits too. They have approached the State Department's personnel office and the diplomats' union, arguing that they are entitled to equal treatment. At least one couple has threatened to challenge the rules in court as discriminatory.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for policy on federal workers, is weighing such an extension of benefits, U.S. officials say -- to the consternation of conservatives.

"They should have seen this coming," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who had opposed extending benefits to gays. "It's a Pandora's box."

The family benefits, although a small part of diplomats' overall benefit package, are important to Foreign Service officers. Benefits include paid travel for the partner to and from overseas posts; visas and diplomatic passports; emergency medical treatment; shipment of household possessions; emergency evacuation in times of danger; and education benefits for minor children. Health insurance is not included for gay partners, although spouses are covered.

Foreign Service officers contend such help is only fair, especially given the conditions they face in remote and often uncomfortable posts.

Conservatives who oppose easing the rules cite the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Passed in 1996 and signed by President Clinton, it defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and says that no state shall be required to recognize a gay marriage performed in another state.

"A good argument can be made that even these relatively limited steps violate at least the spirit of the Defense of Marriage Act," said Peter Sprigg, a fellow at the Family Research Council, which advocates for socially conservative causes.

He said the pressure from unmarried heterosexual couples "illustrates one of our concerns -- that once you open the door to anyone other than married couples, you're beginning a process of the deconstruction of marriage."

Michelle Schohn, spokeswoman for the advocacy group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, said her group was cautioned during the closing days of the George W. Bush administration about the consequences of demanding family benefits for same-sex partners.

"If you included opposite-sex domestic partners, you could potentially be running afoul of [the Defense of Marriage Act] by creating this 'marriage light' category," she said.

Nationally, most employers -- including almost all public employers -- that extend benefits to same-sex partners also offer them to unmarried, opposite-sex partners, said Ilse de Veer, a principal in the international consulting group Mercer.

Those that offer benefits to same-sex partners but not to opposite-sex mates typically cite heterosexual couples' option of marriage, de Veer said.

Unwed heterosexual couples in the United States comprise about 10% of opposite-sex couples living together, census data show.

Schohn said her group supported extending benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples. "They're our natural allies," she said.

The American Foreign Service Assn., the diplomats' union, has not yet taken a position, said spokesman Tom Switzer, but it "has heard from a number of members who believe that the same benefits should be extended to opposite-sex, unmarried partners as well."

A senior State Department official said any benefit extension was up to the White House.

"We're prepared to take that step if that's what the White House wants to do," the official said.

In June, Obama signed a presidential memorandum extending family benefits to same-sex partners -- a concept opposed by Bush's administration.

The issue gained visibility in 2007 when the former U.S. ambassador to Romania, Michael Guest, quit the Foreign Service in protest over the issue.

Supporters of extending benefits to unmarried heterosexuals include such key Congress members as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) and the committee's top Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

Obama's June memorandum omitted health insurance and pension benefits for same-sex partners. Federal officials estimate that including the broader benefits would have cost $56 million in 2010, several times the price of the narrower benefits.

Some legal experts say including the broader benefits could violate the Defense of Marriage Act -- a law that Obama has said should be repealed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Secretary Of State Clinton's Christmas List For Santa

In the spirit of the holidays, I share a little humor with you from NPR.

Secretary Of State Clinton's Christmas List For Santa
By Frank James

State Department types tend to be seen, and typically see themselves, as very serious individuals dealing as they do with exceedingly weighty matters of foreign policy, of war and peace and everything in between.

But even they like to have a little fun now and again and Christmas seems as good as time as any.

So in the spirit of the season, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley made merry, although in his typically measured way, he chose his words with diplomatic care. (Thanks to NPR's Michele Kelleman for bringing this to our attention.)

CROWLEY: And finally a few of you have asked about the schedule of the secretary of State over the next few days.

I can tell you this morning, the secretary departed Washington. And you know, she stopped at the North Pole for an important bilateral meeting with a well known international figure. During the meeting, in a formal demarche sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the secretary outlined her aspirations for the new year
They include, and feel free to hum along, open and accountable governments, Middle East negotiations, more civilians in Afghanistan, empowerment of women, fewer nuclear weapons, respect for human rights, resolution of historic grievances, treaties through the United States Senate, six-party talks, dialogue with Iran, enough food for people of the world to eat, climate-change legislation and lastly a championship for the Boston Red Sox.
(Cross talk.)

Okay. That last one is not on her list. But Harold Koh and I thought it was important that we mention that here.

ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER: Is it that bad that you have to ask Santa?

Following the secretary's career as we have over the years, we're fairly sure of one thing. She maintained the dignity of her office, and of the U.S., and didn't sit on the "international figure's" knee while making her requests.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State Department Diversity Career Networking Event

The Department is holding a recruiting event next month in room 213 of the Harry Harding Auditorium at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

The event, which will take place Thursday, January 28 from 6 to 8:30 pm, will feature experienced Foreign Service Officers, Foreign Service Specialists, and Civil Service professionals talking about the work they do representing our country.

The schedule is as follows:
6-6:30 pm - Registration
6:30 - 7:30 pm - Panel Discussion
7:30 - 8:30 pm - Reception

Space is limited, so you need to register at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Briefing on the Ugandan Anti-homosexuality Law

Approximately 40 people representing NGOs such as Council of Global Equality, IGLHRC, Africa Faith and Justice network, Human Rights First, Global Forum, AMFAR, and the Anti-Defamation League attended a briefing yesterday by Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson on the anti-homosexuality law being considered by the Ugandan legislature.

A/S Carson called the legislation in Uganda “draconian” and described his discussions on at least two separate occasions with Ugandan President Museveni and high ranking officials including the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister about this legislation. A/S Carson said, “The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms any violations of human rights and we see the criminalization of homosexuality as a violation of these basic human rights.” He said this legislation was not mentioned as a “sidebar issue” in his meetings but as an issue of concern on the level of Sudan and other major AF issues. In at least one instance, he sought out the Museveni solely to discuss this legislation with him. Museveni gave him assurances he would oppose the legislation.

Kerry Johnson from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council expressed concern about similar legislation in other African countries as a fallout from the Ugandan legislation, including legislation passed quickly in Burundi and legislation being discussed in Rwanda and Kenya. A/S Carson said he had already discussed this with a high ranking person in Rwanda and asked that he convey his and Secretary Clinton’s concerns to Rwandan President Kagame.

He said the Department is not yet considering consequences if the law is passed, preferring to focus on keeping it from being passed. He did say that a cable or email will be sent to all Ambassadors determining if such laws exist or are being considered in their countries, and that we would address those countries where these laws exist. And he said countries with such laws will now have that listed in the Human Rights Report.

“We will not have a double standard of being opposed to this legislation in Uganda and silent about it somewhere else, ” A/S Carson said.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Marriage Equality in DC: Standing on the side of Love

Just a few minutes ago, Mayor Fenty signed the Marriage Equality bill at the All Souls Unitarian Church. Because of the Home Rule law, Congress has 30 days to stop the bill before it becomes DC law. But hopefully, since they already allowed the District to recognize marriages from other states, they will leave this alone as well.

Besides, don't they have better things to do that take away people's civil rights? Like, I don't know, deal with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraw, the economy, and health care?
You can ready the Washington Post story here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

U.S. Senate committee backs DP bill

Looks like the Senate has forwarded the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act out of committee. This bill would make a big difference in the lives of LGBT Foreign Service families.

U.S. Senate committee backs DP bill

A Senate committee has reported out legislation that would provide benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee voted 8-1 on Wednesday to report out the bill, known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the committee, is the sponsor of the legislation. It currently has 26 co-sponsors.

On the House side, the Oversight & Government Relations Committee reported out its version of the bill last month, 23-12. Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the sponsor of the bill, which has 138 co-sponsors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let the House-hunting Begin!

Minutes ago, the DC City Council passed Marriage Equality by a vote of 11-2. Mayor Fenty has promised to sign the bill, and the ceremony for the signing is expected to take place Thursday.

DC already recognized same-sex marriages performed out of state, which is why my wife and I plan to buy a place in DC and move there after our next overseas assignment. This just makes it all the sweeter.

You can read more about it in the City Paper here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Secretary Clinton's speech on Human Rights

Secretary Clinton gave a speech today at Georgetown University detailing the administration’s human rights agenda. She makes several references to LGBT rights as human rights, and to the need for our government to actively protect the LGBT community around the world. I’ve copied some of the relevant passages below. As a friend noted, this may be the first international policy speech to put forth LGBT rights so boldly.

From the text (as written):

“To fulfill their potential, people must be free to choose laws and leaders; to share and access information, to speak, criticize, and debate. They must be free to worship, associate and to love in the way that they choose.”

"Calling for accountability doesn’t start or stop, however, at naming offenders. Our goal is to encourage – even demand – that governments must also take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in government institutions; by building strong, independent courts, competent and disciplined police and law enforcement. And once rights are established, governments should be expected to resist the temptation to restrict freedom of expression when criticism arises, and to be vigilant in preventing law from becoming an instrument of oppression, as bills like the one under consideration in Uganda would do to criminalize homosexuality.

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions. "

“And even as we reinforce the successes, conscience demands that we are not cowed by the overwhelming difficulty of making inroads against misery in the hard places like Sudan, Congo, North Korea, Zimbabwe, or on the hard issues like ending gender inequality and discrimination against gays and lesbians, from the Middle East to Latin America, Africa to Asia.”

Secretary Clinton also fielded a question related to LGBT protections during the Q&A session:

QUESTION: "Hello, Secretary Clinton. Thank you so much for speaking to us today. You spoke about the situation in Uganda. Could you please talk to us a little bit more about how the United States can protect the rights of LGBT people in areas where those rights are not respected?"

SECRETARY CLINTON: "Yes. And first let me say that over this past year, we have elevated into our human rights dialogues and our public statements a very clear message about protecting the rights of the LGBT community worldwide. And we are particularly concerned about some of the specific cases that have come to our attention around the world. There have been organized efforts to kill and maim gays and lesbians in some countries that we have spoken out about, and also conveyed our very strong concerns about to their governments – not that they were governmentally implemented or even that the government was aware of them, but that the governments need to pay much greater attention to the kinds of abuses that we’ve seen in Iraq, for example.

We are deeply concerned about some of the stories coming out of Iran. In large measure, in reaction, we think, to the response to the elections back in June, there have been abuses committed within the detention facilities and elsewhere that we are deeply concerned about. And then the example that I used of a piece of legislation in Uganda which would not only criminalize homosexuality but attach the death penalty to it. We have expressed our concerns directly, indirectly, and we will continue to do so. The bill has not gone through the Ugandan legislature, but it has a lot of public support by various groups, including religious leaders in Uganda. And we view it as a very serious potential violation of human rights.

So it is clear that across the world this is a new frontier in the minds of many people about how we protect the LGBT community, but it is at the top of our list because we see many instances where there is a very serious assault on the physical safety and an increasing effort to marginalize people. And we think it’s important for the United States to stand against that and to enlist others to join us in doing so."

Friday, December 11, 2009

U.S. Senate to markup DP bill

This is from today's DC Agenda, the former Washington Blade. This bill will mean the world to LGBT Foreign Service Families.

U.S. Senate to markup DP bill

A Senate committee has set Wednesday as the day it will markup legislation that would provide benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, DC Agenda has learned.

The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee will consider the bill — known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act — during a business meeting starting at 10 am. Dec. 16. The markup will occur in Room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The panel will consider amendments to the legislation before voting on whether to report out the bill to the Senate floor.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the committee, is the sponsor of the legislation. It currently has 26 co-sponsors.

On the House side, the Oversight & Government Relations Committee reported out its version of the bill last month, 23-12. Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the sponsor of the bill, which has 138 co-sponsors. A time for a floor vote has not yet been announced.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What If You're Gay?

As part of their financial blogs, the New York Times has started a new feature called "What If You're Gay?" on the financial costs to same-sex couples because of the nearly 1,200 federal benefits of marriage we are denied. The feature emerged after the times did a piece last month on the high cost of being gay. I have added a link to the new feature below:

What If Your're Gay?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Secretary Clinton Responds to Congressional Concern about Uganda

I found this in today's HRC Backstory. I am pleased to see the Secretary stand up for us...still don't see myself serving in Uganda any time soon!

Secretary Clinton Responds to Congressional Concern about Uganda; Text Message Her to Show Your Support
Ty Cobb

In a written response to an October 30 letter from Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Howard Berman, Congressman Gary Ackerman and Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she shares Capitol Hill’s concerns that Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill would “create fear, promote hatred, and potentially divide communities” in Uganda. Moreover, she stated that “the United States has urged Uganda to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, harassment, or discrimination.” According to the Secretary’s letter, she continues to monitor the bill and will continue to speak directly about the bill with Ugandan officials, human rights activists, and international donors.

The United States was the first government to issue a public statement condemning the proposed legislation. If you want to let the Secretary know that you oppose the proposed Ugandan bill, send her a text message at 90822 with a message like this: “Thank you for condemning the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. Please continue to stand up for international LGBT human rights.”

As a brief overview, the Ugandan bill:

* increases the penalty for consensual homosexual conduct from 14 years to life in prison;

*limits the distribution of HIV/AIDS prevention information through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality;”

* creates a crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” punishing anyone who is HIV-positive with death for having consensual same-sex relations, even if the relations are informed and safe and regardless of whether the person is even aware of his or her HIV status; and

* exposes anyone in Uganda, including HIV/AIDS outreach experts, to a criminal sentence for not reporting to the government within 24-hours anyone who engages in homosexual activity.

HRC continues to work closely with the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of international human rights activists, foreign policy experts, LGBT leaders, philanthropists and corporate officials to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world. The Council has taken a strong lead in condemnation of the Ugandan “Anti-Homosexual” bill.

Monday, December 07, 2009

From The Advocate: Brit to U.S.: Come Out of Your Closet

From The Advocate:

Brit to U.S.: Come Out of Your Closet
By Julie Bolcer

A former high-ranking official in the British government urged the U.S. LGBT community to come out of its “national closet” and join others around the world in pressing to protect gay populations under siege in places like Uganda, Jamaica and Eastern Europe.

Phillipa Drew, a former British government official and an out lesbian, spoke during a panel at the 25th annual International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco, where she heralded the role the United States could play on the world stage, provided the country’s LGBT leaders would “come out of your national closet and join us.”

The panel took place on Friday afternoon, according to It was moderated by Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality, with participants that included Drew; Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor of Berlin, Germany; former U.S. ambassador Michael Guest; former U.S. Congressman Jim Kolbe; and Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Rights Commission.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Gay House members say gay-friendly bills are near

This from today's Washington Post is encouraging news for LGBT Foreign Service families. The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act in particular would mean insurance coverage and retirement benefits for the partners of federal employees. Now if we could just ditch DOMA...

Gay House members say gay-friendly bills are near
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two of Congress's three openly gay members said Saturday that the U.S. House is poised to pass bills to provide health coverage for the same-sex partners of gay federal workers and to protect all gay and transgender employees from job discrimination.

Speaking to an international conference of gay politicians in San Francisco, U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., said they expect a domestic partner benefits bill to come up for a vote by the end of the year and the employment bill to reach the floor early in 2010.

The lawmakers said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic.

"I'm hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close," said Baldwin, who is sponsoring the federal worker domestic partner bill.

Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration's highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.

Including transgender workers as part of the legislation to ban job discrimination and lifting the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gay service members may especially meet opposition in Congress, Berry said. But he said that with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities controlling the House and the Senate, victories were "within our grasp."

"The tide of public opinion is in our favor. The forces of intolerance are on the run. We have a president who has been clear in his support for our community and in his commitment to our equality," Berry said. "This is the best opportunity we will ever have as a community, and shame on us if we don't succeed."

Although gay activists have criticized President Barack Obama for not moving more quickly on their concerns, both Polis and Baldwin said the pressure should be directed at Congress because the president can not act alone.

"LGBT leaders need to be focusing in on the people we need to win over instead of just trying to talk to our friends and being angry they haven't delivered," Polis said.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ambassador Huebner's swearing in

This afternoon, I attended the swearing in for Ambassador David Huebner, the first openly gay Ambassador selected by the Obama administration and the first to be confirmed by the Senate (who had no issues with his sexuality...what a refreshing change!).

He was sworn in by Vice President Joseph Biden, who commented that America is at its strongest when our full diveristy is shown.

Ambassador Huebner, in his remarks, said that he was the grandson of an immigrant coal miner, the son of a meat packer, and that he was the partner of a person of a different race but the same gender. And that in America, such a progression is not only possible, but natural.


Best of luck to Ambassador Huebner and his husband of 20 years, Duane, as they head out to New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A New Diplo-draft?

I'll answer that question quickly: not likely.

Secretary Clinton announced during her testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning that as a counterpart to the troop increase announced last night by President Obama, she expects to triple the number of civilians in Afghanistan by January. That will bring the number to somewhere around 1,000. Many of these civilians will be Foreign Service.

There was much kerfuffle over the proposed directed assignments to Iraq during the previous administration. Much of that kerfuffle should have remained in house and likely would have, had the media not been invited to the now infamous town hall that was supposed to be an employee-only forum for folks to voice their concerns. Announcements of the new policies concerning assignments to war zones being announced first in the media and only later to employees didn't help.

Things are different now.

First, we have been through Iraq. We now see that it is possible, though still difficult given our small numbers, to staff the embassy. We all understand now that we will need to serve at one of these posts at some point and perhaps more than once. We have adapted and are continuing to adapt.

Second, I think there has always been more support for the war in Afghanistan. People seem more willing, eager even, to serve there. To do their part.

So I think the increase will stress but not break us.

I think we will do what we have done for the last few years:

We will step up.

We will volunteer.

And no one will have to be directed.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today marks the commemoration of World AIDS Day. As part of her World AIDS Day statement yesterday, Secretary Clinton announced that the 2012 International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC, a direct result of the dropping of the US ban on HIV+ travellers coming to the United States.

Secretary Clinton said:

Today, I am pleased to announce that, with the repeal of the ban, the International AIDS Society will hold the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. This conference will draw together an estimated 30,000 researchers, scientists, policymakers, healthcare providers, activists, and others from around the world.

So as we look to 2012, we have to continue to seek a global solution to this global problem. On World AIDS Day, let us renew our commitment to ensuring that those infected and affected by HIV—the woman on treatment who is supporting her family, the child who dropped out of school to care for sick parents, the doctors and nurses without adequate resources— that all those who have joined together to fight this pandemic will someday live in a world where HIV/AIDS can be prevented and treated as a disease of the past.

This was the same statement where she gave some of the strongest criticism by the Administration so far of LGBT discrimination, saying:

Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it, but also to combat discrimination more broadly. We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to fight the disease worldwide.

A Right to Say "I Do"

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post had an excellent editorial that I wanted to share with you:

A Right to Say "I Do"
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The truth is that if Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused killer of 13 people at Fort Hood, had entered the officers club there with a nice handbag on his arm, perhaps a Gucci tote, he would have been out of the Army by the end of the week. Since he was merely antisocial, a misfit, an incompetent psychiatrist and a likely Islamic fanatic, he was retained and promoted. This says something about America. On the subject of gays, we are a tad nuts ourselves.

That irrationality comes at me on an almost daily basis. One of the most prominent and strongly held planks of the Republican Party's right wing -- its only wing, it seems to me -- is opposition to same-sex marriage. I know this from the sheer huffy-and-puffiness of commentators such as Bill O'Reilly.

In a recent column, O'Reilly directed us to read something called "The Manhattan Declaration," which was released late last month by a coalition of conservative Christians -- Catholic and Protestant alike. It makes three points. The first concerns abortion, and it will surprise no one that the signatories oppose it. The third -- I know, I know, I'll get back to No. 2 in a moment -- concerns "Religious Liberty" and the occasional efforts of government to make religious institutions conform with public policy. This is a point worth considering.

No. 2 -- the longest section of the declaration -- applies to same-sex marriage. It amounts to a confession of confusion, a cry by the perplexed who have come to think that same-sex marriage is at the core -- the rotten core -- of much that ails our society. Everything from divorce to promiscuity is addressed in this section without any acknowledgement that same-sex marriage, like all marriage, is a way of containing promiscuity (or at least of inducing guilt) and that not having it would not reduce promiscuity in the least. This I state as a fact.

The declaration calls the out-of-wedlock birth rate the "most telling and alarming indicator" of a collapse of the "marriage culture." Yes. But that collapse occurred long before same-sex marriage became an issue, not to mention a reality, and so one has nothing to do with the other.

It remains true that the family is the single best place to raise children. That being the case, same-sex marriage would serve the same purpose. I know of children raised by same-sex partners and they seem no worse for the experience, although -- O'Reilly beware -- they lack a certain knee-jerk antipathy to gays, lesbians, transsexuals and similar people of dissimilar sexuality.

Some of the declaration is couched in religious terms, and with that I cannot argue. But it is its appeal to common sense that I find so appalling. When it comes to same-sex marriage, the declaration conjures up a future where "polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships" will be legal. Not likely, but this is not the intent of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage any more than marriage between men and women was supposed to permit Henry VIII to have six wives or for Elizabeth Taylor to have seven husbands, one of them twice.

The reasoning in the declaration is so contorted that it brings to mind the dire warnings from years past of what would happen if blacks and whites were allowed to marry -- not to mention similar references to what the Almighty purportedly intended. This sort of comparison irritates many African Americans who oppose same-sex marriage, but I can see no reason why the civil right extended by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia (interracial marriage) is any different than the one sought by gays and lesbians. Marriage has certain economic advantages, and to withhold them based on nothing more than religious preference or, at bottom, a certain disgust entrenched in convention, is clearly a civil rights matter.

In the end, the courts will decide this question. That's what they're for. It's doubtful that the voters of Virginia would have allowed Mildred and Richard Loving to tie the knot back in 1967 any more than the public in general approves of same-sex marriage today. Such a legal case, spearheaded by the political odd couple of David Boies and Ted Olson, is likely to reach the Supreme Court in the not-too-distant future. Then, I suspect, wedding bells will ring through the land -- and, after a pause, America will wonder what the fuss was all about.

Digger comments: Let's hope so.

Congrats, Ian!

The White House released a statement announcing several nominees for key posts. This one is particular is one I already knew about and am really happy to see made official:

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:

Ian C. Kelly, Nominee for U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, with the rank of Ambassador, Department of State.

Ian Kelly has served as the Spokesman for the State Department since May 2009. He is a Senior Foreign Service Officer, with the rank of Minister Counselor. Prior to that, Mr. Kelly was acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs from January to May 2009, with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus, and the Director of the Office of Russian Affairs from 2007-2009. From 2004-2007, he was Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Mission to NATO. From 1994-1996, Mr. Kelly was Director of Democratic Initiatives to the Newly Independent States at the State Department, coordinating the activities of nearly a dozen federal agencies involved in democracy building in the former Soviet Union. In addition to NATO, he has been posted overseas in Rome, Ankara, Vienna, Belgrade, Moscow, Leningrad, and Milan. Mr. Kelly holds a Bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College, a Masters degree from Northwestern University, and a Doctorate from Columbia University.

I am happy about this announcment for many reasons. Obviously, it is nice to see a career FSO who is Public Diplomacy coned get put forward for such a prestigious position. But mostly, it is because I know Ian. My wife and I both have worked with him, and he is not only an exceptional officer, but a great mentor and all around decent person. The greatest compliment you can give someone in the service is that you would serve with them anywhere, and I would serve with Ian Kelly anywhere.

So, CONGRATS (hopefully soon to be) Ambassador Kelly!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Dog After All?

Here is what the Secretary said during her talk today at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the Administrations efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it, but also to combat discrimination more broadly. We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights.

Seriously? No Dog in that Fight?

This article is in today's Newsweek. In an interview, PEPFAR Chief Eric Goosby said that not only does the new law in Uganda, which makes homosexuality PUNISHABLE BY DEATH, have no impact on AIDS funding in the country, but that it is not his role "to tell a country how to put forward their legislation." Seriously?

Eric Goosby: No Hold on PEPFAR Funds for Uganda
Friday, November 27, 2009 10:41 AM
By Katie Paul

Stigma is anathema to effective public-health work, but that's never stopped homophobic crusaders from mucking up the fight against HIV/AIDS before. Now, just as the South African government is finally changing its tune on the matter, Uganda is emerging as the world's new problem country. The recipient of $287 million in PEPFAR funds last year, Uganda is also the site of a vicious campaign against homosexuality, which took a turn for the worse last month when the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" was introduced to Parliament. The bill threatens harsher punishments for actual or even perceived homosexual activity, which is already illegal under Ugandan law; convicted offenders could face the death penalty. "Promoting homosexuality" would also be illegal, as would a failure to report any of the above to police within 24 hours.

Even by regional standards, such penalties would be exceptionally harsh, especially since they would effectively criminalize the work of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts under the "promotion of homosexuality clause." The thinking behind them is just as disturbing, since this latest round of antigay fervor was kicked off at a conference held by by American missionary groups that went to proselytize about the twin evils of Nazism and homosexual behavior in Kampala earlier this year. Just to hammer home how far-out that is, this means the Ugandan government got its advice from the author of a book called The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which claims the Nazi movement was "entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history." The result has been a vigilante campaign against the country's LGBT community, whereby gay detainees are tortured and tabloids publish the names, places of employment, addresses, and physical descriptions of gay-rights advocates under headlines that scream "TOP HOMOS IN UGANDA NAMED." It would seem the stuff of Orwellian parody, but it's real.

As the witchhunt in Kampala has heated up, so too have calls for U.S. policymakers to take a stand. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, TNR editor James Kirchick called for PEPFAR to withhold its funding for HIV/AIDS programming in Uganda unless its legislators abandon the legislation, which has been tabled for now. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK this week, PEPFAR chief Eric Goosby said he didn't have a dog in that fight:

I'm very concerned about any decision that any country—including our own—would make to target a group that's in the population, and that's always been in the population, by excluding them from a service or passes legislation that criminalizes their behavior. Every time you do that, you push the behavior underground. It never works. Rather than minimizing the spread of the virus, it actually amplifies it.

The U.S. policy is trying to work with governments to say exactly that. I think I would do more harm than good by connecting our resources to respond to the epidemic to making them dependent on a behavior that they're not willing to engage in on their own. My role is to be supportive and helpful to the patients who need these services. It is not to tell a country how to put forward their legislation. But I will engage them in conversation around my concern and knowledge of what this is going to do to that population, and our ability to stop the movement of the virus into the general population.

So, for all those who hoped that PEPFAR funding might be used as a hammer to pressure the Ugandan powers-that-be to abandon their crusade: no dice. The Obama era is the dialogue era; don't pick fights, but persuade through elegant theses. That said, since the moral argument clearly hasn't convinced the Ugandan authorities of the errors of their ways, one can only hope that Goosby's public-health argument will.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Benefits But Not Marriage

I hope you'll forgive me for again being off topic...for obvious reasons, gay marriage is foremost on my mind these days (that, and I am in the office on the day after Thanksgiving and there is not much work to be done!)

There is a nice article in today's Washington Post about how nationwide, benefits for same-sex partners are increasing even as Maine became the 31st state to vote against same-sex marriage.

Most of these wins are coming from the courts and legislatures. When allowed to vote, people tend to come down against our rights. No doubt, had Brown v Board of Education, the integration of the military, or the Civil Rights Act been put to a vote, it would have failed miserably. In fact, while the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that miscegentation laws were unconstitutional, it took until 1998 and 2000 for the last states (SC and Alabama respectively) to remove prohibitions against interacial marriage from their state constitutions. And in both cases, about 40% of the population STILL voted to restrict marriage to members of the same race.

Rights should never be left to the tryanny of the majority. Which is why I am proud of DC for refusing to let people vote on my right to be married.

Because I AM married.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Overseas

I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving and have many things to be thankful for. For me, I am thankful for my beautiful wife, our jobs, home and family, the right to get married (at least in some places) and for every day that my grandmother is still on this earth.

I am also thankful that I have spent, and hopefully will spend again, holidays such as thanksgiving overseas.

Not because I want to be apart from my family. I don't.

But holidays for those at post are an interesting time, especially holidays that are particularly American. Usually, all of the "orphans" at post, those who can't go home to the states and don't have large families at post, get together at one person's house. And aside from the fact that the folks there aren't related (so the event lacks some of the strain that sometimes exists at the holidays), the event looks very much like an American Thanksgiving. In Jerusalem, we had turkeys and all the trimmings. Everyone brought something, and most tried to make something from their own holiday traditions.

There was even occassionally, if the timing worked and the host had AFN (Armed Forces Network...another thing to be thankful for overseas!), football to be watched after the gorging.

And the sense of community was super strong.

I miss that. I am thankful for it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Go Charleston!

Okay, this is not foreign service related, but Charleston, SC, is one of my very favorite places on earth (and is on my short list of possible places to retire along with Chapel Hill and Asheville, both in NC). So let's hear it for Charleston (along with Columbia) for showing that some South Carolinians support equality!

Charleston City council passes nondiscrimination ordinances

Charleston City Council passed ordinances expanding the city’s existing policy prohibiting discrimination in housing to include age, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The council also passed a public accommodations ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, disability, age or sexual orientation. The ordinances were presented to the mayor’s office in August by members of Charleston’s Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA), SC Stonewall Democrats, SC Log Cabin Republicans, American Civil Liberties Union and South Carolina Equality—who had successfully introduced similar ordinances in Columbia SC.

Charleston is the second municipality in the state to pass comprehensive human rights ordinances in housing and public accommodations that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Council Member Gary White said, “It’s a step forward in the right direction in making sure that we are not discriminating against anyone.”

“The passing of these ordinances is consonant with Charleston’s historic reputation as one of America’s friendliest cities and a place that is welcoming to all people,“ said Victoria Middleton, Executive Director of the ACLU South Carolina Office. “And they also affirm the constitutional principles shared by all Americans of non-discrimination and equality under the law.“

Charleston joins a number of other cities in the south with comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinances including Charleston WV, New Orleans LA, Atlanta GA, Covington KY and Columbia SC .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Case for Federal Benefits

As you know, November 18 the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23-12 to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO), an important bill would grant all federal employees (including those overseas, which is of special importance to LGBT Foreign Service families) an array of domestic partner benefits, include vital health insurance benefits.

In today's Federal Diary in the Washington Post, Joe Davidson discusses that and two recent court cases that make compelling arguments for federal benefits for same-sex spouses:

Rationale builds for same-sex benefits law

Two federal appellate court judges issued separate rulings last week that came to the same result: Uncle Sam must permit employee benefits for same-sex spouses of federal workers.

Though the decisions apply only to same-gender married employees of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and that's a pretty small group even in California, the judges' orders boost the arguments of those favoring legislation that Congress now is considering.

Last Wednesday, the same day one of the orders was issued, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to allow same-sex partners of federal workers to share their employee benefits, including those covering health care, dental and vision services; retirement; and disability. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is considering a similar measure.

Those bills would have far greater reach than the judicial rulings, yet the judges' words provide a strong case from dispassionate sources for the fundamental reasoning behind the legislation -- basic fairness and equal pay for equal work. In Wednesday's opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said, "the denial of benefits violates the United States Constitution" because it is discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The next day, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote: "Karen Golinski has been denied a benefit of federal employment because she married a woman rather than a man." That violates, he added, "this court's guarantee of equal employment opportunity."

The judges also said the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and was repeatedly invoked by Republicans opposing the House committee action, does not prohibit same-sex benefits.

Both Golinski and Brad Levenson, whose case Reinhardt decided, took their claims through the court's Employee Dispute Resolution Plan. It has its own prohibition against sex discrimination, an additional tool for them to fight the denial of benefits. Golinski is an attorney with the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco. Levenson is a deputy federal public defender in Los Angeles. Each married a spouse of the same gender during the four-month period when such unions were legal in the state, and they remain legally wed.

Supporters of legislative action argue that blocking benefits for same-sex partners violates the principle of equal pay for equal work. They have comfort in Reinhardt's finding that Levenson suffered a "reduction of his employment benefits." Kozinski reached a similar conclusion regarding Golinski. That reasoning led the judges to grant Levenson and Golinski back pay awards. Levenson also was awarded an amount of money, to be determined, to cover the cost of insuring his husband from this point forward.

Levenson called that "a good remedy," yet one that's "separate, but not equal" because individually purchased health insurance policies are not as good as those secured through a group plan.

In Golinski's case, the Office of Personnel Management was told to rescind directives to insurance carriers that said, according to Kozinski, "Ms. Golinski's wife is not eligible to be enrolled as her spouse under the terms of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program because of her sex or sexual orientation, or that the plans would violate their contracts with OPM by enrolling Ms. Golinski's wife as a beneficiary."

Kozinski's decision included a copy of a Feb. 20 letter from Lorraine E. Dettman, OPM's assistant director of insurance services programs, to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Citing DOMA, Dettman said health insurance programs for federal employees "may not provide coverage for domestic partners, or legally married partners of the same sex, even though recognized by state law."

Dettman's letter came after an earlier ruling by Kozinski in which he ordered the Administrative Office to submit paperwork regarding coverage for Golinski's spouse to Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Not at all pleased with OPM's action, the judge said it assaulted "the autonomy and independence of the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government."

Kozinski also found that "even as limited by DOMA, the FEHBP permits judicial employees to provide health insurance coverage to their same-sex spouses." Reinhardt said using DOMA to deny benefits to Levenson's husband was unconstitutional and "violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

Though Dettman's letter was written after President Obama took office, it was before his appointees took over OPM. The Obama administration has found itself in the tricky position of defending DOMA because it is the law, while calling for its repeal and strongly supporting the congressional legislation.

"I'm hopeful the Obama administration will honor this order," Golinski said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Myers Pleads Guilty to Spying for Cuba

I think I told you that I was working inINR when this story first broke. I can tell you that everyone in the Bureau was shocked and devastated. Like everyone there except for the Myers, I took seriously my obligation to protect the classified information I was privy to. It is about protecting the U.S. and our interests. Revealing that information to anyone, regardless of motive, is despicable, and I hope that now that they have entered a guilty plea, the book is thrown at them.

The Washington Post covered the story of their plea here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

GLIFAA's Trans Day of Remebrance

I missed this yesterday while travelling back from Massachusetts:

Trans Day of Remembrance

Washington, DC - Today GLIFAA honors and remembers those hurt and killed in acts of hate against the transgender community.

We remember and honor Ty'lia "NaNa Boo" Mack, a trans woman killed in August only a few blocks from the offices of Transgender Health Empowerment, in Washington, DC.

Join GLIFAA, Transgender Health Empowerment, the DC Trans Coalition, the Human Rights Campaign, and many other community based and national LGBT groups in the metro DC area for a vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event tonight will feature speakers Diego Sanchez, openly-trans legislative aide to Senator Barney Frank, and Barry Peyton, father of recently murdered Ty'lia "Na Na Boo" Mack.

Friday November 20, 2009- 6:30 PM
Metropolitan Community Church
474 Ridge St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
Metro: Mt. Vernon Square/7th St Conv Ctr (Green/Yellow)

Visit the DC Trans Coalition Website

Contact if you need help getting to the event, or if you have any questions contact Sadie Ryanne Baker at (202) 557-1951

Gwendolyn Ann Smith began Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) to honor Rita Hester, whose 1998 murder in Boston kicked off the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and a San Francisco, California candlelight vigil in 1999. Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials in hundreds of cities around the world.
GLIFAA Remembers Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

GLIFAA also wants to take this opportunity to remember Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a gay male brutally killed in Puerto Rico after his assailant discovered he was a man dressed as a woman. A vigil will take place in New York City on Sunday, November 22 on the Christopher Street Pier at 5:00pm. Vigils will also occur in other cities accross the U.S.

GLIFAA, officially recognized by the U.S. State Department, represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) 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. Founded in 1992 by fewer than a dozen employees who faced official harassment simply because of their sexual orientation, GLIFAA continues to seek equality and fairness for LGBT employees and their families.

About DC Trans Coalition

The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a volunteer, grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for human rights, dignity, and equal access for transsexual, transgender and gender-diverse people in the District of Columbia.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blogging Today Postponed

Today's blogging was postponed so my partner and I could get legally married.

I'll try to get back to you ASAP!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Domestic Partner Benefits Advance in House

The following is a press release from Tammy Baldwin's office about DPBO. As you know if you read this blog regularly, this will go a long way towards addressing the inequities faced by LGBT Foreign Service Families and all LGBT Federal Employees.

Press Release
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Wisconsin’s Second District

Contact: Jerilyn Goodman 608-251-8737 Cell: 608-347-6557

November 18, 2009

Baldwin Lauds Historic Votes for LGBT Equality

Domestic Partner Benefits Advance in House

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin lauded an historic vote in a House committee that moves the nation a step closer to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today passed the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517), authored by Congresswoman Baldwin (D-WI). Under the legislation, same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living together in a committed relationship would be eligible for health benefits, long-term care, Family and Medical Leave, and federal retirement benefits, among others. The domestic partners of federal employees would also be subject to the same responsibilities that apply to the spouses of federal employees, such as anti-nepotism rules and financial disclosure requirements.

“Today’s actions mark another significant step in our march toward LGBT equality,” said Congresswoman Baldwin, Co-Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. “Our movement is gaining momentum around the country and Congress is following the will of the people. Today is a day to celebrate yet another milestone and recognize anew that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration. In a ceremony at the White House in June, President Obama voiced his strong support for the measure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Public Protests Worldwide on Uganda Anti-Gay Measure

I got this in the email a few minutes ago from the Council for Global Equality:

Public Protests Worldwide on Uganda Anti-Gay Measure
Demonstration at 2 pm ET, Thursday, November 19
Washington, D.C.


A global public protest against a proposed "Anti-Homosexuality" Bill in Uganda will take place this week in Washington, DC aligned with global human rights protests in other cities including New York.


Embassy of the Republic of Uganda
5911 16th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.


2 PM to 3 PM ET, Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and its partners in civil society have requested that supporters stage protests against the homophobic legislation at the diplomatic missions of Uganda leading up to Human Rights Day on December 10, 2009. The demonstration in Washington, D.C. is organized by a coalition of supporters, including Advocates for Youth, the African Services Committee, AIDS Institute, Amnesty International, the Council for Global Equality, Global Rights, Health Gap, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Immigration Equality, the International Gay and Lesbian human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, Metropolitan Community Churches, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. A counterpart demonstration protesting the bill will also be held at Uganda's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City the same afternoon. For more information on the New York protest visit


A broad coalition of civil society groups in Uganda have united against the legislation, warning that it will severely undermine human rights and the work of human rights defenders in the country. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans are already persecuted under Penal Code Article 145a, which prohibits "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature." The proposed bill specifically criminalizes homosexuality, and punishes anything from sexual stimulation to "touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality" with life imprisonment. Worse, "aggravated homosexuality" - including activity by "serial offenders" or those who are HIV positive - would merit the death penalty.

The bill's draconian restrictions on homosexuality have drawn public criticism from a diverse coalition of professional and civic organizations in Uganda, who warn that it also undermines civil society, the rule of law, and public health outreach in the country. The bill not only criminalizes the "promotion of homosexuality," but states that any person in authority who fails to report known violations of the law within 24 hours will also be subject to a significant fine and imprisonment. It would have negative repercussions for HIV prevention activities in Uganda, which rely on an ability to talk frankly about sexuality and provide condoms and other safer-sex materials, will be seriously compromised. Moreover, it sets a dangerous precedent by revoking the basic human rights of a marginalized group in the name of tradition, with potentially serious repercussions for women, sex workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 violates multiple protections guaranteed by the Constitution of Uganda, but also contravenes the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international human rights treaties to which Uganda is a party. By withdrawing from agreements which acknowledge sexual orientation and gender identity, the bill sets a dangerous precedent, undermines Uganda's commitment to the international human rights regime, and threatens the basic human rights of all Ugandans. More shocking, the bill claims jurisdiction over Ugandans who violate its provisions while outside of the country, provoking condemnation from the international community and the governments of the United States and France.


Advocates for Youth, Donald Hitchcock, 202-251-4351 (Cell),

AIDS Institute, James Sykes, 202-557-6389 (Cell),

Amnesty International, Media Office, 202.544.0200,

Council for Global Equality, Mark Bromley, 202-607-6813 (Cell),

Global Rights, Stefano Fabeni, 917-209-0118 (Cell),

Hartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Amy Carlton, 312-660-1317 (Cell),

Health Gap, Matthew Kavanagh, 202-486-2488 (Cell),

Human Rights Watch, Scott Long, 646-641-5655 (Cell),

Immigration Equality, Steve Ralls, 202-347-7007 (Cell),

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Hossein Alizadeh,

Metropolitan Community Churches, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, 212-629-7440,

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Calla Devlin, 415-205-2420 (Cell),


Following the call from SMUG, all human rights defenders are encouraged to join the demonstrations or contact Uganda's diplomatic missions using the information below. The bill's repercussions for human rights and human rights defenders stretch far beyond Uganda, and merit strong support for SMUG and its civil society partners from allies around the globe.

Jerry P. Lanier, US Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda
P.O. Box 7007,
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: 256-414-259-791/2/3/5
Fax: 256-414-259-794

Perezi K. Kamunanwire, Ambassador to the US
Tel: 1-202-726-4758
Fax: 1-202-726-1727

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda to the United Nations
336 East 45 Street
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 1-212-949-0110
Fax: 1-212-687-4517


About Council for Global Equality

The Council for Global Equality brings together international human rights activists, foreign policy experts, LGBT leaders, philanthropists and corporate officials to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sad Day for the DC LGBT Community

I just read that the Washington Blade, DC's gay newspaper since 1969, has folded because its parent company went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. All of the employees were let go immediately. I hope they find a way to start a new paper, or at least continue their careers as journalists...they are good folks, especially the ones I have worked with on GLIFAA stories.

You can read more here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A and G Visas Finally A Reality

For those who don't know, there are special visas for foreign diplomats and employees of international organizations (like World Bank), A for diplomats and G for employees of international organizations. Their families receive a derivative visa of the same type.

Something GLIFAA has been working on for a while is to have same-sex partners considered family for the purpose of receiving those visas. This is important not just in the name of fairness (allowing the partners of those folks to come to the United States while their spouse is posted here), but it also means that those sending countries will reciprocate, meaning the partners of LGBT Foreign Service Officers and Specialists will be able to receive diplomatic visas to the country where their spouse is serving. And with a diplomatic visa comes diplomatic protections, just like those received by heterosexual spouses.

Full equality. No more, no less.



STATE 00116867 001.2 OF 002

1. On July 22, the Federal Register published an amendment to 22 CFR 41.21 that changed the definition of "immediate family," for purposes of derivative A or G visa classification. The "immediate family" of a principal alien will now include a same-sex domestic partner and a relative by blood, marriage or adoption of that same-sex domestic partner. In accordance with
guidance from the White House, the Department is not in a position to authorize opposite-sex domestic partners as members of the immediate family of principal aliens. As amended, 22 CFR 41.21(a)(3) now contains the following definition of "immediate family":

(3) Immediate family, as used in INA 101(a)(15)(A), 101(a)(15)(G), and 212(d)(8), and in classification under the NATO-1 through NATO-5 visa symbols, means the spouse and unmarried sons and daughters, whether by blood or adoption, who are not members of some other household, and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien. Under the INA 101(a)(15)(A) and 101(a)(15)(G) visa classifications, "immediate family" also includes individuals who:
(i) Are not members of some other household;
(ii) Will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien;
(iii) Are recognized as immediate family members of the principal alien by the sending Government as demonstrated by eligibility for rights and benefits, such as the issuance of a diplomatic or official passport, or travel or other allowances; and
(iv) Are individually authorized by the Department.

2. An application for a derivative A or G visa must be supported by a written request from the appropriate foreign office, mission or international organization (see 9 FAM 41.21 N2) that addresses household membership and recognition.

3. Volume 9 of the Foreign Affairs Manual is being amended to read as follows:

9 FAM 41.21 N5.1-2 Other Members of Principal Alien's Household
The term "immediate family" may also include, upon individual authorization from the Department (see 9 FAM 41.21 N5.2(c)), any other alien who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien, is not a member of some other household, and is recognized as an immediate family member of the principal alien by the sending Government or International Organization, as demonstrated by eligibility for rights and benefits such as the issuance of a diplomatic or official passport or other similar documentation, or travel or other allowances. Aliens who may qualify for immediate family status on this basis include: any other relative, by
blood, marriage, or adoption, of the principal alien or spouse; a domestic partner; and a relative by blood, marriage or adoption of the domestic partner. The term "domestic partner" for the purpose of this section means a same-sex domestic partner.

Before you issue a derivative visa in an A or G classification other than G-4 to a domestic partner, you must confirm that the sending state would provide reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of U.S. Mission members. Individuals who do not qualify as immediate family, as described above, may otherwise potentially qualify for a B-2 visa (See, e.g., 9 FAM 40.101 N4 and 41.31 N14.4). In any request for an advisory opinion (per 9 FAM 41.21 N5.2(c)) for an
individual case involving significant foreign policy issues or public interest, address how the policy issues or public interest relate to the visa case.

9 FAM 41.21 N5.2 Aliens Who are Members of Some Other Household

a. An alien who has been a member of a household other than the household of the principal alien would not STATE 00116867 002.2 OF 002 normally be included within the "immediate family" of the principal alien as that term is defined in 22 CFR 41.21(a)(3), regardless of other circumstances. Thus a nephew of college age who has resided in the household of the principal alien's sister and brother-in-law would not qualify as an immediate relative of the principal
alien simply to join the principal alien's household with the intention of attending college in the United States. F-1 classification under sponsorship of the principal alien might be appropriate in such a situation.

b. However, the fact that an alien has been, even inthe recent past, a member of some other household does not preclude a finding that, at the time of application for a visa, the applicant is a member of the household of the principal alien. For example, a recently widowed, divorced or aging parent may have closed a former household with the intention of becoming part of the principal alien's household. This could also occur because, due to advanced age or infirmity, the parent has experienced significant difficulty in maintaining his or her own household. The test in adjudicating these cases is whether the applicant, for reasons of age, health or change in circumstances, has a compelling reason to join the household of the principal alien rather than maintain or reestablish an independent household.

c. You may consider "immediate family" status to be individually authorized by the Department of State in accordance with 22 CFR 41.21(a)(3)(iv) in all cases in which you have made a favorable determination on the alien's application provided that, in the case of a domestic partner, you have confirmed that the sending state would provide reciprocal treatment to domestic partners of U.S. Mission members, and provided that in your judgment no significant foreign policy issues or public interest exists. If you are unable to confirm reciprocal treatment or if significant foreign policy issues or public interest exist, you must refer the case to the Department (CA/VO/L/A) for an advisory opinion (AO).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Posts Celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

The following article is in this month's State Magazine, which is basically an internal magazine for State Department employees. It is really nice to see the magazine report on the ways Gay Pride was observed at some of our missions around the world. I particularly like the photo (you'll have to follow the link and go to page 4 to see it), which is of a huge group of people from our embassy in Manilla holding a sign that reads "Manilla=Diversity.

I like it!

Posts Celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

To celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June, U.S. missions worldwide hosted an array of educational and social programming for foreign audiences and mission staff on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. With the support of members of the Department’s Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies group, missions in seven countries—Albania, Burma, India, Iraq, Korea, Malta and the Philippines—organized more than 20 lectures, roundtable discussions, movies and social events.

These events promoted awareness of the challenges facing LGBT communities worldwide, provided resources for foreign nationals seeking equal rights for their LGBT communities and celebrated Department efforts toward policies responsive to the needs of LGBT employees and their families.

In the Philippines, about 60 American and local staff joined together in a June 30 photograph on Manila’s lush chancery grounds, capping the end of a lighthearted, two-week movie series to educate mission personnel on issues facing LGBT people in different cultures.

The U.S. Embassy in Tirana reached out to Albania’s nascent LGBT movement through lectures by a U.S. anthropologist and roundtable discussions. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon’s American Center hosted a book exhibition, a showing of the documentary “Before Stonewall” and panel discussions on LGBT rights and AIDS in the workplace.

The U.S. Embassy in Valletta held a public screening of the film “Milk” at the University of Malta and a digital videoconference with a U.S. gay rights activist. The U.S. Embassy in Seoul held a June 24 cocktail event attended by 100 staff including the ambassador and deputy chief of mission. It celebrated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to extend benefits to partners of LGBT employees.

The U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, India, held a poster show titled “Equal Rights for All,” invited local LGBT leaders to a reception, screened “Milk” and hosted a videoconference for local LGBT activists with the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad held a Gay Pride party and fundraiser at the Embassy Association bar, attracting a large turnout of American civilians, U.S. and Coalition military personnel and others. It raised $1,500 for a U.S.-based LGBT charity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Marines!

I just wanted to quickly wish at happy 234th birthday to all of the Marines I have served with. You guys are a vital part of the mission and just a helluva a lot of fun to work/play with!

And for Joe B. in particular, you made a 30-minute hellish elevator ride a little less traumatic!

Semper Fi!

Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act mark up

I received this is my email yesterday and would like for you to reach out to your congressperson if he or she is not on the list below and ask them to support DPBO. It would make a huge difference not just for LGBT Foreign Service families, but all LGBT federal employees.

And a personal thanks to my representative, David Price, who is already a co-sponsor.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

We are hearing that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee may mark-up H.R. 2517, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act as soon as next week. Between now and the markup, outreach is needed to increase cosponsorships and build further support for the legislation. There are currently 127 cosponsors on H.R. 2517 (see below). Please take some time this week to check-in with Members not on this list and ask them to sign-on to the bill. The point of contact in Rep. Baldwin’s is Amber Shipley at 225.2906.

Additionally, if you have ties to Rep. Paul Kanjorski or Rep. Marcy Kaptur, they need to hear from you, and from the grassroots in their districts. Both are members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and have not committed to support DPBO.
As soon as the mark-up date is confirmed, the information will be posted to the DPBO list.

Current Cosponsors: 127 Total (126 Democrats, 1 Republican)

Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)
Ackerman (D-N.Y.)
Adler (D-N.J.)
Andrews, R. (D-N.J.)
Baird (D-Wash.)
Becerra (D-Calif.)
Berkley (D-Nev.)
Berman (D-Calif.)
Bishop, T. (D-N.Y.)
Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
Braley (D-Iowa)
Capps (D-Calif.)
Capuano (D-Mass.)
Carson, A. (D-Ind.)
Chu (D-Calif.)
Clarke (D-N.Y.)
Clay (D-Mo.)
Clyburn (D-S.C.)
Cohen (D-Tenn.)
Connolly (D-Va.)
Courtney (D-Conn.)
Crowley (D-N.Y.)
Cummings (D-Md.)
Davis, S. (D-Calif.)
DeFazio (D-Ore.)
DeGette (D-Colo.)
Delahunt (D-Mass.)
DeLauro (D-Conn.)
Dingell (D-Mich.)
Doggett (D-Texas)
Doyle (D-Pa.)
Edwards, D. (D-Md.)
Ellison (D-Minn.)
Engel (D-N.Y.)
Eshoo (D-Calif.)
Farr (D-Calif.)
Filner (D-Calif.)
Frank, B. (D-Mass.)
Fudge (D-Ohio)
Giffords (D-Ariz.)
Gonzalez (D-Texas)
Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
Hare (D-Ill.)
Harman (D-Calif.)
Hastings, A. (D-Fla.)
Hinchey (D-N.Y.)
Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Hodes (D-N.H.)
Holt (D-N.J.)
Honda (D-Calif.)
Inslee (D-Wash.)
Israel (D-N.Y.)
Jackson, J. (D-Ill.)
Jackson Lee, S. (D-Texas)
Johnson, H. (D-Ga.)
Kennedy, P. (D-R.I.)
Kilpatrick (D-Mich.)
Kilroy (D-Ohio)
Kucinich (D-Ohio)
Langevin (D-R.I.)
Larsen, R. (D-Wash.)
Larson, J. (D-Conn.)
Lee (D-Calif.)
Levin, S. (D-Mich.)
Lewis, John (D-Ga.)
Loebsack (D-Iowa)
Lofgren (D-Calif.)
Lowey (D-N.Y.)
Maffei (D-N.Y.)
Maloney, C. (D-N.Y.)
Massa (D-N.Y.)
Matsui, D. (D-Calif.)
McCollum, Betty (D-Minn.)
McDermott (D-Wash.)
McGovern (D-Mass.)
McMahon (D-N.Y.)
Meek, K. (D-Fla.)
Michaud (D-Maine)
Miller, George (D-Calif.)
Moore, D. (D-Kan.)
Moore, G. (D-Wis.)
Moran, James (D-Va.)
Murphy, C. (D-Conn.)
Nadler (D-N.Y.)
Norton (D-D.C.)
Olver (D-Mass.)
Pallone (D-N.J.)
Pastor (D-Ariz.)
Peters (D-Mich.)
Pierluisi (D-P.R.)
Pingree (D-Maine)
Polis (D-Colo.)
Price, D. (D-N.C.)
Quigley (D-Ill.)
Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
Rothman (D-N.J.)
Ryan, T. (D-Ohio)
Sanchez, Linda (D-Calif.)
Sanchez, Loretta (D-Calif.)
Sarbanes, J. (D-Md.)
Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Schwartz, A. (D-Pa.)
Scott, R. (D-Va.)
Serrano (D-N.Y.)
Sestak (D-Pa.)
Sherman (D-Calif.)
Sires (D-N.J.)
Speier (D-Calif.)
Stark, P. (D-Calif.)
Sutton (D-Ohio)
Tierney (D-Mass.)
Tonko (D-N.Y.)
Tsongas (D-Mass.)
Van Hollen (D-Md.)
Velazquez (D-N.Y.)
Walz (D-Minn.)
Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
Watson (D-Calif.)
Waxman (D-Calif.)
Weiner (D-N.Y.)
Welch (D-Vt.)
Wexler (D-Fla.)
Woolsey (D-Calif.)
Wu (D-Ore.)
Yarmuth (D-Ky.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

I almost missed it!

I just noticed that as of today, Life After Jerusalem has had more than 50,000 visits.

While apparently beneath the threshhold needed to get into the Foreign Service Journal, I'm still pretty happy about hitting that milestone.

Taking the Orals: Waiting

When you finish with the three sections of the oral assessment, you will be taken to a room (likely the room where you did the written exercise) to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I am sure we didn't wait for 20 hours but it certainly felt like it! During that wait, I wondered if cameras were watching us and if this was the final part of the exam. I doubt that it was, but you can never be sure!

Eventually they will call your name. People put a lot of stock in the order they call you, but really, you won't be able to determine anything from it at the time. I know folks who passed who were called out first. My partner was called out last when she passed. I was called out right in the middle (and I was the only person to pass the day I took it). So they may have an order, but you won't know it at the time.

If you have passed, you will be taken to a room and congratulated. You will learn your score (the test is scored on a scale of 1-7. To pass, you must get at least a 5.25 (higher in some cones). Most people score less than 6.0. You can improve your score with military service or by testing in a language. You can get .17 points for most languages, but .4 or .5 for the Critical Needs Languages..think Arabic, etc. The flip side though is that if you take the extra points for language, you must serve in a post using that language in one of your first two tours.) Then the examiners will give you some information and your conditional offer.

Of course, that is when the waiting really begins. For your medical clearance. For your security clearance. For your suitability review. After all that waiting, you will be placed on the register in order of your OA score and the date you received all your clearances. And then you will wait for "tha call" (which is really an email). People are offered jobs beginning with the highest scorers. Some people decline offers (you can do that twice before being removed from the list) or put themselves on a do not call list for a while. You can stay on the register for up to 18 months, at which point if you haven't gotten an offer, you drop off the register.

And then you have to start the process all over again. And wait some more.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Taking the Orals: The Structured Interview

I found the structured interview to be the most stressful of the three sections of the Foreign Service oral assessment (unless you count the waiting for your results! More on that tomorrow!).

Before you take the exam, you will be given a list of 13 "dimensions" the service is looking for. You should look at those closely before you ever go to the oral assessment. You don't need to memorize them, but do think of a story from your life that exemplifies each of those dimensions. Write them down if it helps you remember, but you don't need to fret about having it written down and in front of you. If you take the time to really think about the list, the examples will come to you. Then when they ask about times you have been in particular situations, like dealing with members of another culture, you will be able to bring to mind an example pretty easily.

At the start of the interview, they will put you in a small room alone and close the door. This is NOT to freak you out. It is just to give you a minute to collect your thoughts. You will then have two interviewers. Trying to "read" them may not be all that helpful. They are not supposed to telegraph to you how you are doing. I tried to tell from their expressions how I was doing, and I left thinking one loved me and one hated me, and that I had either aced the interview or bombed it!

And finally, remember to be yourself. If you made it to the orals, it is because your QEP essays convinced the Department that it wanted you. This is just your chance to seal the deal.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ambassador-designate introduces partner to Senate panel

From GayNZ:

Ambassador-designate introduces partner to panel

The gay man tapped by US President Barack Obama to be the next American ambassador to New Zealand has introduced his partner to a Senate confirmation hearing.

Ambassador-designate David Huebner has introduced Duane McWaine to the Senate panel, noting that the couple have just marked twenty years as a couple.

If confirmed, Huebner will be only the third openly gay ambassador in US history. In 1999, after a battle in the Senate President Clinton appointed gay philanthropist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg by pushing his appointment through during a congressional recess.

In 2001 President George W Bush appointed Michael Guest as ambassador to Romania, making him the second openly gay ambassador and the first openly gay man to be confirmed by the Senate to such a post. In 2007 Guest resigned from the State department due to the Foreign Service's refusal to extend to same-sex partners the rights available to straight partners such as diplomatic status, travel allowances and security training.

Taking the Orals: The Case Management Exercise

Yesterday I talked a little about Group Exercise portion of the Foreign Service Oral Assessment. Now, I want to talk briefly about the CASE MANAGMENT EXERCISE.

With the written exercise, you will be given a case file. It will include emails and memos discussing an issue at the Embassy. You will likely be a new officer and asked rather quickly to assess the situation and write a memo outlining your suggestions.

You do not need to know what official State Department memo format is.

Keep in mind that you have done essays both on the written exam and for the QEP. The Department already knows you can write. The most important thing to remember is to engage the math. They want to make sure you can look at the facts, make a reasoned decision and have an understanding of the budgetary implications. We aren't talking calculus or trig here. Just simple math.

And don't forget to proof-read! I accidentally turned off the insert function and typed over a few sentences. If I hadn't proof-read, I would have sounded like a blithering idiot.

And I do that well enough without the help of a computer!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Taking the Orals: The Group Exercise

One of my favorite things about doing this blog is that I get lots of emails from folks wanting to join the Foreign Service asking for tips and advice. I love the service, and anyone who is already in knows that it is much more about WHO you serve with than where you serve or what job you do. So I want all the good people we can get to join and serve with us!

From what I can see from my email and checking twitter, lots of folks have just heard they have passed the written portion of the Foreign Service Officers Test (FSOT) and are preparing their qualifying essays in hopes of getting an offer to take the oral assessment.

I can't speak to the essays. They are a new requirement. But I did pretty well on the oral assessment and helped lead a couple prep sessions afterward, so I can speak to that a bit. All of what I am going to tell you is covered in the prep sessions and so does not violate the non-disclosure agreement.

For today, we'll talk about the GROUP EXERCISE.

In the group exercise, you will be in a room with up to five other examinees. There will be four examiners in the room. Three of them are charged with watching two examinees (you won't know which one is watching you) and one watches the entire group dynamic.

Each examinee will be given a project. You will be instructed that you have to come to a group consensus about funding one project completely. Any leftover money can be split however you decide on the remaining project. You will be told you have a certain amount of time to complete the exercise and that you will not be warned again of the time. Therefore, one person should volunteer to be the time keeper. If you can, let it be you. If not, you might want to occasionally ask the time keeper for updates on how much time you have left. I did this during my OA.

Each person will have a set time to present their project. Do not take the entire time. Leave time for the other participants to ask questions. Once everyone has presented, you should lobby for your project. But here is where you have a decision to make. If you see, after initially lobbying for your project that yours is stupid by comparison to someone else's project, say that to the group and throw your support behind another project. Help gently guide (without bullying) the group to consensus.

It is important to remember that whether or not your project is funded has NO BEARING on whether or not you pass. They are looking to see if you are a leader without being a bully. They are looking to see if you can negotiate constructively and work well with others. Which brings me to a second important point: you have to TALK. If you don't talk, the examiners can't judge you. In my group, the guy who got his project fully funded never said another word. He failed.

It is also important not to let the rest of the group derail your chances. If your group isn't talking (I hear this has happened but I would think it would be rare!), gently guide them. Ask about the other projects. Suggest compromises and as for people's buy in. Ask them directly. Even if everyone else fails, you will have shown you can lead even an difficult group.

You will tend to be in a group of high achievers. Some of them are going to think the way to pass is to bully or talk over other examinees. Don't let it ruffle you or silence you. Show composure. And finish the task. You want to show you can accomplish something.

I actually feared I had gotten too forceful at the end, but my examiners later told me they loved how I handled the bully in our group: she thought she had to get funding. At the end of the exercise, she was still trying to get one guy to give her some of the money the group had allocated to his project. I asked the time keeper how long we had. He said about a minute or so. I looked at her and said, "We need to finish." She responded, "Wait! He is just about to agree to give me $10,000." (hello? consensus?) I looked at the time keeper and asked, "How much time do we have now?" He answered 45 seconds. I said, "Write down what we have agreed to and you can finish arguing about this in the hall."

I passed (with a pretty high score). She didn't.