Gay Bush Appointee Loses Appeal for Fair Treatment

Richard Grenell was appointed spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations by President Bush more than seven years ago and became the longest-serving public servant to hold that post. But when it came to having his partner of six years listed alongside the spouses of other U.N. diplomats, his dedication to the job didn't carry much weight with the State Department.

BY Kerry Eleveld

September 27 2008 12:00 AM ET

Legal opinions aside, Grenell believes the last line of that e-mail is perhaps most telling. Noting that he would have been the first known person to have his same-sex partner listed in the Blue Book, Grenell says, “I think the status quo is the enemy here. It is, We’ve never done it before; and you’re dealing with bureaucrats who can't think outside the box.”

Grenell exchanged several more e-mails with John Bellinger, the State Department’s top legal advisor, but nothing came of them.

Contacted by The Advocate, State Department spokesperson Noel Clay reiterated, “The department over the years has not included domestic partners because they are not spouses.”

After several years of inaction, Grenell decided to go public. “Some people are going to yell at me, because it's been a quiet fight,” he says. “I think a lot of people’s style is to do a quiet fight.”

As a registered Republican and a Bush appointee, Grenell has not always had an easy time waging quiet wars. He was publicly “outed” on an LGBT activist website two years ago, though Grenell says he was out to almost everyone who knew him. The main complaint leveled against him at the time was the fact that the U.S. had recently joined with Iran in a U.N. committee vote to deny accreditation to two international LGBT organizations. Accreditation, or consultative status, allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) access to U.N. proceedings, conferences, and the right to propose agenda items.

The most common sticking point for granting consultative status to LGBT organizations, says Grenell, is whether they have any ties to the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Due to the organization’s controversial nature, groups seeking legal recognition from the U.N. must reject NAMBLA outright. “We needed an unequivocal separation from NAMBLA in order for these groups to go forward,” he says.

LGBT activists and human rights groups were outraged by the January 2006 vote, but after one of the organizations -- the International Lesbian and Gay Federation of Denmark -- changed course and distanced itself entirely from NAMBLA, the U.N. approved it for accreditation later that year along with two other LGBT NGOs. The U.S. voted in favor of all three accreditations. The following year, the U.N. approved two more LGBT NGOs for consultative status.

Despite the scrutiny, Grenell is proud of his work on facilitating LGBT accreditations and touts a couple of other accomplishments as reasons why it’s important to have LGBT people working on both sides of the aisle. He helped secure two former U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., John Danforth and John Bolton, to give keynote speeches at Log Cabin Republican conventions. “It wasn’t difficult at all, I just went and asked,” he says, “but it was the personal relationship.”

 

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