The State Department will begin phasing
out domestic partner benefits for unmarried gay couples.
According to the Washington
Blade, which broke the story, the agency will begin phasing
out its Same-Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP) program on December 14, with
an official end slated for September 30, 2018.
Gay Foreign Service personnel posted in
countries where marriage equality is not recognized are entitled to
up to 10 days of administrative leave to travel to the jurisdiction
of their choice to marry.
Under Secretary of State for Management
Patrick Kennedy said that the policy change was a direct result of
the Supreme Court's June ruling striking down gay marriage bans in
all 50 states.
“When Obergefell v. Hodges
legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, federal
spousal benefits administrated by the department became available
equally to married opposite- and same-sex couples,” he told the
“Because married same-sex couples are
now able to receive a wide array of benefits available to any married
couple in the federal government, the original justification for the
SSDP program no longer exists,” he added.
The SSDP program was announced in 2009
by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
GLIFAA, which represents LGBT Foreign
Service members, said in a statement that it was opposed to the phase
out, noting that marrying remained challenging for the foreign-born
partners of Foreign Service personnel.
Calling the SSDP program a “bridge”
to marriage equality, Kennedy said that it was no longer needed.
“The SSDP program was a bridge until
the time that same-sex couples reached parity with opposite-sex
couples in terms of marriage and federal benefits,” he said.
“Since the Windsor and Obergefell decisions, the
department has been focused on now being able to provide the full
range of benefits – pension, health insurance and more – to
same-sex married couples, as opposite married couples have enjoyed