Taking Back the Workplace

In the 1950s, Frank Kameny was fired from his job in the Army Map Service for "sexual perversion." Now he's watching an openly gay man run the very office once responsible for scrubbing gays from the government.

BY Kerry Eleveld

April 03 2009 12:00 AM ET

"Obviously, one of
the pieces of that puzzle is equal and fair treatment for all
federal employees," he said, ticking off a list of
marginalized groups: LGBTs, African-Americans, Latinos, people
with disabilities.

"We need to draw upon
the strength and diversity of our nation and we need to treat
and accord fairly each and every one of them with benefits, and
training, and with promotional opportunities that are second to
none," he said.

Lofty goals at a time
when many inequities in the federal government are being called
into question. Two separate rulings from California's federal
appeals court have found that same-sex partners of government
employees should be provided health insurance. So far, OPM has
told insurers that offering the benefits would be a violation
of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law prohibiting federal
recognition of same-sex marriages.

But Berry's unanimous
confirmation is a sign of the respect he commands on Capitol
Hill. Having managed multimillion-dollar budgets and hundreds
of employees as director of the National Zoological Park and,
prior to that, executive director of the National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation, Berry's credentials are solid.

He also served as
assistant secretary of the Interior Department under President
Bill Clinton and spent a decade as the legislative director for
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who has been a key player on
the Hill for years on federal employment issues.

The fact that
Republicans and Democrats found consensus on Berry during the
same week that not a single Republican voted for President
Obama's budget also betrays how well-liked Berry is by his
peers, regardless of which side of the aisle they sit on.

"He's one of the
nicest people you'll ever meet in your life without being a
pushover," said Len Hirsch of GLOBE, an organization that
advocates for federal LGBT employees.

Tags: Politics

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