Gay Rights on Fast Track at State Dept.

Days after pledging to review policies that discriminate against LGBT employees at the State Department, Secretary Clinton said her staff is reviewing inequities and preparing to make appropriate changes "expeditiously."

BY Kerry Eleveld

February 05 2009 1:00 AM ET

Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton told participants at a town hall meeting in
Washington, D.C., Wednesday that equalizing treatment of
the State Department’s LGBT employees and their
partners is being reviewed and “is on a fast
timeline” to be remedied.

“We are
reviewing what would need to be changed, what we can legally
change,” Secretary Clinton said. “A lot of
things we cannot legally change by a decision in the
State Department. But let’s see what we can
determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are
moving on that expeditiously.”

Clinton’s
remarks came in response to a question posed by Ralan Hill,
a Foreign Service officer with a same-sex partner, who
noted that in an emergency situation abroad, the State
Department would be responsible for evacuating him but
would have no such obligation to his partner. The
department does, however, provide evacuation
assistance to heterosexual spouses of officers
stationed overseas.

“This is
an issue of real concern to me,” Clinton responded.
“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. So I view this as an issue of workplace
fairness, employee retention, and the safety and
effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide.”

Clinton signaled
that she would review the inequities faced by LGBT
employees during her confirmation hearings, and momentum has
been growing ever since. Earlier this week U.S.
representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), along with U.S. senators Russ Feingold
(D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), sent a letter to Secretary
Clinton asking her to change the discriminatory
policies.

Tags: Politics

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