Gay Rights on Fast Track at State Dept.
BY Kerry Eleveld
February 05 2009 12:00 AM ET
“The lack of equitable treatment could force dedicated, intelligent, and needed FSOs (Foreign Service officers) and officials to make an unfortunate choice between serving their country and protecting their families,” read the letter. “The State Department’s past inattention to these disparities places it below parity with the best employment practices used in the private sector, where the majority of Fortune 500 companies extend employee benefit programs to cover the domestic partners.”
Baldwin and her colleagues singled out the following changes in State Department policy regarding Foreign Service officers:
• Inclusion in travel orders for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Access to training, including all language classes, area studies, and embassy effectiveness classes for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Emergency evacuation and medevac from post when necessary for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Access to post health units for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
• Visa support for same-sex domestic partners accompanying FSOs to overseas postings, and for same-sex foreign-born domestic partners accompanying FSOs to postings in Washington or elsewhere in the U.S.
• Preferential status for employment at post, comparable to that enjoyed by eligible family members, for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
Congressional members sent a similar letter to former secretary Condoleezza Rice last year, but the concerns fell on deaf ears. Then–assistant secretary Jeffrey Bergner sent a response stating that the department recruits and promotes employees “without regard to sexual orientation” and affords benefits to unmarried partners of employees in accordance with the Foreign Affairs Manual (at 3 FAM 4180). The letter failed to acknowledge any inequalities faced by officers in same-sex relationships.