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.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

At Least Someone Likes Me...

....even if the Foreign Service Journal doesn't!

Thanks to Lime of Sight for the following:

• For Foreign Service news, I follow Digger of Life after Jerusalem--and if you're interested in reading more, she has an exhaustive list of all the Foreign Service blogs on the web.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

30th Anniversary of the Embassy Takeover in Iran

Thirty years ago today, on November 4, 1979, Iranian students overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took the occupants hostage. Six hostages escaped and took refuge at the Canadian Embassy (they later fled the country with the assistance of the Canadaians, who then closed their own embassy). Over the course of the next two weeks, some were released, including non-Americans, all but two of the women and all but one African American. Eight months later, another hostage was freed because of illness.

The remaining 52 hostages were held for a total of 444 days. One of them was William Belk, a native of South Carolina. I vividly remember the news reports each night about him. It brought this crisis home to South Carolina. In some small way, I hope my service honors him.

The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, moments after President Reagan was inagurated.

Today, the the former American Embassy Tehran is a museum to the Iranian revolution.

You can read more about the takeover in the book Guests of the Ayatollah.

The following list of hostages was borrowed from's entry about the Embassy takeover.

The Hostages:

6 Evading Diplomats

Robert Anders, 34 - Consular Officer

Mark J. Lijek, 29 - Consular Officer

Cora A. Lijek, 25 - Consular Assistant

Henry L. Schatz, 31 - Agriculture Attaché

Joseph D. Stafford, 29 - Consular Officer

Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 - Consular Assistant

13 Women and African-American Personnel were captured, held hosage and released on 19-20 November, 1979

Kathy Gross, 22 - Secretary

Sgt. James Hughes, 30 - USAF Administrative Manager

Lillian Johnson, 32 - Secretary

Sgt. Ladell Maples, 23 - USMC Embassy Guard

Elizabeth Montagne, 42 - Secretary

Sgt. William Quarles, 23 - USMC Embassy Guard

Lloyd Rollins, 40 - Administrative Officer

Capt. Neal (Terry) Robinson, 30 - Administrative Officer

Terri Tedford, 24 - Secretary Sgt.

Joseph Vincent, 42 - USAF Administrative Manager

Sgt. David Walker, 25 - USMC Embassy Guard

Joan Walsh, 33 - Secretary

Cpl. Wesley Williams, 24 - USMC Embassy Guard

1 hostage captured, held and released on 11 July 1980 because of Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis

Richard I. Queen, 28 - Vice Consul 52

Remaining Hostages, held captive until 20 January, 1980

Thomas L. Ahern, Jr., -Narcotics Control Officer

Clair Cortland Barnes, 35 - Communications Specialist

William E. Belk, 44 - Communications and Records Officer

Robert O. Blucker, 54 - Economics Officer Specializing in Oil

Donald J. Cooke, 26 - Vice Consul

William J. Daugherty, 33 - 3rd Secretary of U.S. Mission

Lt. Cmdr. Robert Englemann, 34 - USN Attaché

Sgt. William Gallegos, 22 - USMC Guard

Bruce W. German, 44 - Budget Officer

Duane L. Gillette, 24 - USN Communications and Intelligence Specialist

Alan B. Golancinksi, 30 - Security Officer

John E. Graves, 53 - Public Affairs Officer

Joseph M. Hall, 32 - CWO Military Attaché

Sgt. Kevin J. Hermening, 21 - USMC Guard

Sgt. 1st Class Donald R. Hohman, 38 - USA Medic

Col. Leland J. Holland, 53 - Military Attaché

Michael Howland, 34 - Security Aide, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office

Charles A. Jones, Jr., 40 - Communications Specialist and Teletype Operator. Only African-American hostage not released in November 1979.

Malcolm Kalp, 42 - Affiliation Unknown

Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr., 50 - Economic and Commercial Officer

William F. Keough, Jr., 50 - Superintendent of American School in Islamabad, Pakistan, visiting Tehran at time of embassy seizure

Cpl. Steven W. Kirtley - USMC Guard

Kathryn L. Koob, 42 - Embassy Cultural Officer; one of two female hostages

Frederick Lee Kupke, 34 - Communications Officer and Electronics Specialist

L. Bruce Laingen, 58 - Chargé d’Affaires, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office

Steven Lauterbach, 29 - Administrative Officer

Gary E. Lee, 37 - Administrative Officer

Sgt. Paul Edward Lewis, 23 - USMC Guard

John W. Limbert, Jr., 37 - Political Officer

Sgt. James M. Lopez, 22 - USMC Guard

Sgt. John D. McKeel, Jr., 27 - USMC Guard

Michael J. Metrinko, 34 - Political Officer

Jerry J. Miele, 42 - Communications Officer

Staff Sgt. Michael E. Moeller, 31 - Head of USMC Guard Unit at Embassy

Bert C. Moore, 45 - Counselor for Administration

Richard H. Morefield, 51 - U.S. Consul General in Tehran

Capt. Paul M. Needham, Jr., 30 - USAF Logistcs Staff Officer

Robert C. Ode, 65 - Retired Foreign Service Officer on Temporary Duty in Tehran

Sgt. Gregory A. Persinger, 23 - USMC Guard

Jerry Plotkin, 45 - Civilian Businessman visiting Tehran

MSgt. Regis Ragan, 38 - USA NCO assigned to Defense Attaché’s Office

Lt. Col. David M. Roeder, 41 - Deputy USAF Attaché

Barry M. Rosen, 36 - Press Attaché

William B. Royer, Jr., 49 - Assistant Director of Iran-American Society

Col. Thomas E. Schaefer, 50 - USAF Attaché

Col. Charles W. Scott, 48 - USA Officer, Military Attaché

Cmdr. Donald A. Sharer, 40 - USN Air Attaché

Sgt. Rodney V. (Rocky) Sickmann, 22 - USMC Guard

Staff Sgt. Joseph Subic, Jr., 23 - Military Police, USA, Defense Attaché’s Staff

Elizabeth Ann Swift, 40 - Chief of Embassy’s Political Section; 1 of 2 female hostages

Victor L. Tomseth, 39 - Senior Political Officer, held at Iranian Foreign Ministry Office

Phillip R. Ward, 40 - Administrative Officer

Monday, November 02, 2009

Blogging in the Foreign Service

The November issue of the Foreign Service Journal has a nice piece on Foreign Service blogs.

Frankly, I was a little surprised not to be mentioned, particularly since some inactive blogs were. Diplopundit noticed LAJ was omitted, as were several other good (and active) bloggers (like Consul At Arms II).

Of course, perhaps the left LAJ off because I was critical of the FSJ's decision to publish a letter asking that benefits NOT be granted to LGBT Foreign Service families and their subsequent attempt to edit a response(see here and here) to make it appear that the writer was protesting the letter and not the Journal's decision to publish it.

Not sure why some of the others were left off...

National American Indian Heritage Month - Presidential Proclamation

National American Indian Heritage Month - Presidential Proclamation



The indigenous peoples of North America -- the First Americans -- have woven rich and diverse threads into the tapestry of our Nation's heritage. Throughout their long history on this great land, they have faced moments of profound triumph and tragedy alike. During National Native American Heritage Month, we recognize their many accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices, and we pay tribute to their participation in all aspects of American society.

This month, we celebrate the ancestry and time-honored traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives in North America. They have guided our land stewardship policies, added immeasurably to our cultural heritage, and demonstrated courage in the face of adversity. From the American Revolution to combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have fought valiantly in defense of our Nation as dedicated servicemen and women. Their native languages have also played a pivotal role on the battlefield. During World Wars I and II, Native American code talkers developed unbreakable codes to communicate military messages that saved countless lives. Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars. Our debt to our First Americans is immense, as is our responsibility to ensure their fair, equal treatment and honor the commitments we made to their forbears.

The Native American community today faces huge challenges that have been ignored by our Government for too long. To help address this disparity, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocates more than $3 billion to help these communities deal with their most pressing needs. In the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, my Administration has proposed over $17 billion for programs carried out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and other Federal agencies that have a critical role to play in improving the lives of Native Americans. These programs will increase educational opportunities, address the scourge of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, promote economic development, and provide access to comprehensive, accessible, and affordable health care. While funding increases do not make up for past deficiencies, they do reflect our determination to honor tribal sovereignty and ensure continued progress on reservations across America.

As we seek to build on and strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship, my Administration is committed to ensuring tribal communities have a meaningful voice in our national policy debates as we confront the challenges facing all Americans. We will continue this constructive dialogue at the White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C., this month. Native American voices have echoed through the mountains, valleys, and plains of our country for thousands of years, and it is now our time to listen.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2009 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 27, 2009, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


President Lifts Ban on Travellers with HIV/AIDS

Last week, President Obama took a big step towards fairness by lifting the ban on travel to the US by people with HIV/AIDS. The story from HRC Backstory is copied for you below.

This ban is something Foreign Service Officers are all aware of, because we have all had to do visa work. I can't recall ever asking anyone about their HIV status for an interview, but that is not to say that someone at the border couldn't have.

Now we need to remove convictions for sodomy from Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). This is an antiquated restriction that does nothing more than restrict gay men convicted for their sexuality alone in their home countries from traveling to the U.S. And since the US Supreme Court overturned our own sodomy laws, the restriction is all the more unjust, especially as people come to the US seeking asylum from just those sorts of countries.

President Obama Takes Major Steps for People with HIV/AIDS

Today President Barack Obama took two major steps on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS by signing an extension of the Ryan White CARE Act and then by announcing a final regulation reversing our nation’s prohibition on HIV-positive people entering the country for travel or immigration.

Said HRC President Joe Solmonese:
“We thank the President for taking these tremendous steps today on behalf of people with HIV and AIDS. Today’s actions signal both to Americans and to the world that the United States is a nation that will care for those most in need at home and will no longer close the door to HIV-positive people abroad. Today, President Obama has extended one of our nation’s proudest responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and finally erased one our of most shameful.”

The ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants was adopted through regulation over twenty years ago and codified by Congress in 1993. Under that ban, HIV-positive foreign nationals were unable to enter the U.S. unless they obtained a special waiver, which was difficult to obtain and only allowed for short-term travel, and the vast majority were unable to obtain legal permanent residency. In July 2008, President Bush signed into law, as part of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a provision that removed the ban from statute and returned regulatory authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine whether HIV should remain on a list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the United States. In June of this year, HHS issued a proposed rule lifting the ban and seeking public comment.


Senator Kerry, a lead proponent of removing the discriminatory ban said:
“Today a discriminatory travel and immigration ban has gone the way of the dinosaur and we’re glad it’s finally extinct. It sure took too long to get here. We’ve now removed one more hurdle in our fight against AIDS, and it’s long overdue for people living with HIV who battle against stigma and bigotry day in and day out.”