Thursday, September 03, 2009

As Promised

The new issue of the Foreign Service Journal is now online. Below is Selim's letter and the Journal's response.

Don’t Publish Hate Mail

I am writing to object to your decision to publish the letter from retired FSO Richard Hoover (“Don’t Encourage Them!”) that appeared in your July-August issue.

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took office in January, 2,200 current and former employees of foreign affairs agencies presented her with a letter asking that they be “treated equally and with the same respect,” regardless of sexual
orientation. What made this document truly historic was the gay-straight alliance formed in the workplace: 92 percent of the signatories did not have a Member of Household, meaning they were either single or married to someone of the opposite gender.

Wherever U.S. diplomats are posted overseas, we showcase to host communities an example of successful integration: different races, different religions, different ages and different sexual orientations working together effectively. The men and women of our Foreign Service truly believe in the very American value of “E Pluribus

Promotion of diversity is not a Republican value or a Democratic value; it is an American value. When President Ronald Reagan selected Edward Perkins as ambassador to South Africa, he did not worry that the appointment of an African-American would be “unacceptable,” as Mr. Hoover puts it, to the apartheid government. When Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama chose their respective Secretaries of State, they did not fear that sending a woman overseas might “project controversial views.” And last November’s results show that when we elected our first
African-American president, most voters did not think that installing a minority
candidate as head of state would “serve to undermine our work abroad.”

Today I woke up to my alarm clock, ate some cereal, drove to work, wrote a report and attended some meetings. On my way home, I will purchase milk and fruit. Later, I will make a phone call to my partner, who is unable to join me at this post. It is unclear which of these are the “habits” that Mr. Hoover claims are “unacceptable
to most American taxpayers.”

The State Department does not respect host-country biases when it assigns lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender staff to overseas posts, any more than it respects host-country biases concerning gender, race or religion. Today’s Foreign Service shows
the diversity of our nation better than ever before. From Khartoum to Kabul, our LGBT staff are proudly volunteering to serve their country. Wherever they are assigned, they — and their straight colleagues — are showing how diverse groups of Americans work side by side to advance freedom and basic human rights for all.

I cannot imagine that any other minority group would have to open the Foreign Service Journal to see letters that call on the department not to hire “greater numbers of those.” I would ask that from this day forward, there should similarly be no room in the Journal for such hurtful words towards LGBT staff.

Selim Ariturk
Economic Officer
Embassy Baku

Editor’s Note: We respectfully disagree with Mr. Ariturk’s assertion thatwe published hate mail. When an AFSA member submits a letter responding to an item in the FSJ — in this case, a May Speaking Out column that strongly advocated fair treatment for LGBT Foreign Service employees and their partners — our normal policy
is to publish it (subject to editing, of course).

Further, as our masthead (p. 4) in each issue states:“Material appearing herein represents the opinions of the writers, and does not necessarily represent
the views of the Journal, the Editorial Board or AFSA.”

Digger comments:
For the record, my feelings on publishing this letter stand. It was the wrong decision. It is one I hope AFSA gives some thought to, as they are the governing board of the journal. I am aware too that this was not the only letter criticizing the Journal's decision to publish Hoover's letter, and I find it interesting that they only published one and didn't mention that it was not the only one. Of course, I also know they initially tried to edit Selim's letter to remove the criticism of the Journal and make it only about Hoover's letter.

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