Gay Rights on Fast Track at State Dept.
BY Kerry Eleveld
February 05 2009 12:00 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.