Wyden and other senators request more diversity at the State Department

Karol Collymore

This press release from Senator Ron Wyden's office encouraging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to implement equal rights for same sex couples that work at the State Department: 

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to address inequities in employment practices concerning gay and lesbian State Department employees and to take remedial action. In a letter sent today, the Members wrote:

“The lack of equitable treatment could force dedicated, intelligent, and needed FSOs (Foreign Service Officers) and officials to make an unfortunate choice between serving their country and protecting their families. As you noted during the question and answer session of your Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing, many other nations now extend training, protection, and benefits to the partners of LGBT employees. Further, the State Department’s past inattention to these disparities places it below parity with the best employment practices used in the private sector, where the majority of Fortune 500 companies extend employee benefit programs to cover the domestic partners. Without remedying these inequities, the State Department may fail to attract and retain qualified personnel.”

The Members asked Secretary Clinton to institute, among other things, the following changes in State Department policy regarding Foreign Service Officers (FSOs):
 

-Inclusion in travel orders for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
-Access to training, including all language classes, area studies, and embassy effectiveness classes for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
-Emergency evacuation and medevac from post when necessary for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
-Access to post health units for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
-Visa support for same-sex domestic partners accompanying FSOs to overseas postings, and for same-sex foreign-born domestic partners accompanying FSOs to postings in Washington or elsewhere in the U.S.
-Preferential status for employment at post comparable to that enjoyed by Eligible Family Members (EFMs) for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, a distinguished diplomat, resigned last year from the State Department because of inequitable employment practices.  Such disparities “should not be the reason why highly qualified employees leave the State Department at a time when their service is needed more than ever,” the Members wrote.  More than 2,200 government employees, members of the group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), also sent a letter to Clinton expressing their concerns on this issue. 
 
Citing Secretary Clinton’s pledge during her confirmation hearing to examine current policies relating to lesbian and gay employees at the State Department, the Members wrote:  “As you work to advance America’s national security and exemplify this great country’s values around the world, we hope you will follow through on this pledge and also work to fully support your diverse workforce.”

Comments

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    I couldn't find this press release on Wyden's website, nor on Feingold's. But I did find Congresswoman Baldwin's version on her website.

    While I agree with the gist of what they're asking Secretary Clinton to do, it would needlessly result in further inequality. Rather than extend these benefits to same-sex couples, what Clinton ought to be urged to do instead is to make them available to every single employee and whatever one person that employee designates. And their reasoning would be there own.

    I was going to comment on this a bit ago but then decided to instead write it up as a post on my blog where I fleshed my reasoning out a bit more. But this here is the essence of it.

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    This is an excellent idea. I wonder what kind of diplomatic immunity would be required for countries which have draconian laws (like, you know, the death penalty) against gays and lesbians? Being "out" to your colleagues is one thing; being out to the public in some countries is still not safe or even legal.

    Do you know if we have reciprocity for certain marriage arrangements banned under U.S. law, such as bigamy, which foreign ambassadors to this country might be able to practice as part of their mission?

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    Jamais: I don't know how far down diplomatic immunity goes, but certainly it includes the ambassadors themselves. And it's pretty much unrestricted - so, yeah, a Saudi ambassador could have multiple wives while in the U.S.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    I don't care two whits about how "diverse" the people at State are. I'm more interested in how knowledgeable they are and how professionally they can do their job.

    That said, anyone who works for the State Department should have the same rights as anyone else. It's not about "diversity", which is a nebulous, useless, and all-too-often cynically abused term if ever there was one.

    What it's really about is about equal rights. So cheers to Wyden, et. al.

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    Maybe the state department will be able to attract some of the sought-after Arabic and other critical linguists kicked out of the military for violating the don't ask, don't tell policy in recent years.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    Doubtful. How's the old saying go? Once burned, twice shy?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Kari Chisholm:

    Jamais: I don't know how far down diplomatic immunity goes, but certainly it includes the ambassadors themselves.

    Bob T:

    It wouldn't matter to the people with such laws--if they know there's a gay couple in the US or other embassy and can't legally do anything with them, they'll use a truck bomb to kill everybody in the building.

    Bob Tiernan Mult Co

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Jamais Vu:

    Maybe the state department will be able to attract some of the sought-after Arabic and other critical linguists kicked out of the military for violating the don't ask, don't tell policy in recent years.

    Bob T:

    I agree. The one case I know of was a State Dep't case I think--when two gay men were fired even though they were at that time doing excellent work tracking down Al Qaeda and other Islamofascist money transfers. Here was a chance to show that we were all in this, and after all, gays are among the first to get beheaded in by those culturally quaint people over there.

    I often wonder how serious some of you are about whether or not it was a real loss when those two were fired -- after all, isn't the whole Al Qaeda thing a "fake" according to MoveOn.org and other representative groups of the left?

    Bob Tiernan Mult Co.

  • (Show?)

    MoveOn says alQaida is fake?? Cite, please.

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