OK, this is awkward for Hillary
Clinton, the woman behind the man whose presidency appears to be the
GPS navigator of the Obama administration. Not that those weren't
good economic times, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
It was Monday when openly lesbian
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin called on Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton. She made a request that she says she has often made of
Clinton's predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, but had been largely ignored:
Please fix the inequities for gay spouses at the State Department.
Her fight was joined by Senators Russ
Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, and Democrat Ron Wyden from
Oregon, and Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lentinen.
All very bipartisan; Baldwin is good like that.
Clinton has long advocated for equal
rights for gays and lesbians, but as First Lady and New York Senator
she was not in a position to dictate change. As Secretary of State,
however, she's the boss. This was Baldwin on a fact finding mission
to see if Clinton was all tongue and no trousers.
request asked the Department to grant gay spouses access to benefits,
training and protections offered to straight spouses . The Department currently classifies gay
spouses as “member of household,” a designation with few benefits
other than housing. Gay spouses are not afforded training when
following a State employee to an overseas post, access to medical
services, or emergency evacuations.
Baldwin called her list “quite
extensive,” and said none of the changes would require
Congressional approval. They were, in effect, Clinton's call.
By Wednesday, the heat was on. Clinton
had called for a State Department powwow, her first boss-to-employee
heart-to-heart, and the pot was set to boil.
Ralan Hill, a gay diplomat, called the
policy “active discrimination against me and my family.”
“As 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 zone,” Hill told Clinton.
Clinton, the woman who said at the
Democratic National Convention that she ran for president to fight
for “deep and meaningful equality” and included gay rights in
those marching orders, wholeheartedly agreed . That's good, but then
comes the awkward moment with Bill's legacy, wait for it.
She called the issue a “real concern”
of “workplace fairness,
employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy
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,”
Clinton reminded the group that the federal DOMA tied her hands in
setting policy for gay spouses. The federal DOMA, you may recall,
defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the purpose of federal
the federal DOMA was signed by ... President William Jefferson “Bill”
Clinton, her husband. Yes, I told you, very, very awkward.
knew that fighting for deep and meaningful equality for gays and
lesbians would run up against your own husband's legacy? Priceless.
Gay Slant is a weekly feature of On Top Magazine. Walter
Weeks is a writer for On Top and can be reached at