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!