Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is
responding positively to a request made by Congressional leaders to
fix inequities for gay and lesbian employees at the State Department.
Wisconsin's openly gay Representative
Tammy Baldwin (D) is behind the request. She said in an exclusive
interview that she had made similar requests to Clinton's
predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, but little had come of the effort.
a letter dated Feb. 2, Baldwin was joined by Senators Russ Feingold
(D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Florida Republican Representative
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in asking for policy changes for gay diplomats
that would not require Congressional approval.
outlined an “extensive” list of items where inequities exist
between straight and gay employees including discrimination in a gay
spouses' access to training, medical services and emergency
evacuations from an overseas post. Gay spouses are classified as
“members of household,” a designation with few benefits.
on Wednesday, Clinton responded, saying she would look for ways to
provide “training, benefits and protections” to gay spouses.
her first town hall meeting with State Department employees, a gay
diplomat, Ralan Hill, asked Clinton about the issue.
have a same-sex partner, who's been recognized as member of household
by the Department of State,” Hill said. “Because of that, the
Department actively discriminates against me and my family in a
number of areas by limiting our access to benefits routinely and
customarily provided to other families here in the Department.”
one example, if I were assigned overseas to a post that came under a
mandatory evacuation order, I would be required to leave, although
the Department is under no legal obligation to do anything to help my
partner. He could be left literally to fend for himself in a war
acknowledged the shortfalls in the policies: “You know, this is an
issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out,
all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the
partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training,
the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members
receive when you serve abroad.”
I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention,
and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities
I have asked for a staff review of current policies, especially those
that are set forth in State Department regulations, and
recommendations and a strategy for making effective changes,”
also reminded employees that gay spouses, even if legally wed, are
not recognized by federal law under federal DOMA which defines
marriage as a heterosexual union for government agencies. That law,
signed by President Bill Clinton, she said, greatly curtailed her
authority on this issue.
the Net: Rep. Baldwin's interview is at voices.OUTTAKEOnline.com