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State Department Criticized for Announcing End to Domestic Partner Benefits

State Department Criticized for Announcing End to Domestic Partner Benefits

State Dept.

The State Department plans to start to phase out the Same-Sex Domestic Partner program in December, but advocates for LGBT workers say that's shortsighted.

Following the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriages nationwide, the U.S. State Department announced this week that it will start to phase out the Same-Sex Domestic Partner program. And that has LGBT employees working overseas and their allies concerned.

Officials will begin dismantling the program in December and will end it completely in 2018, according to the Washington Blade.

"When Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, federal spousal benefits administrated by the department became available equally to married opposite- and same-sex couples," Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy told the Blade. "Because married same-sex couples are now able to receive a wide array of benefits available to any married couple in the federal government, the original justification for the SSDP program no longer exists."

Foreign Service personnel who are stationed in a country that would not allow them to get married will be given 10 days of administrative leave to travel to a country or jurisdiction that will. The policy is available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

GLIFAA, the department's group for LGBT employees, protested the decision, pointing out that it is not safe for some personnel to marry a foreign-born spouse. In countries that don't have protections for LGBT people or where homosexuality is illegal, the ramifications for spouses or their families could be disastrous.

"GLIFAA supports equal treatment and fair protections for all employees, and having protections available for families that have different needs," GLIFAA President Regina Jun said in a statement posted on the group's website.

"Rather than focusing on rollback, the Department should work to ensure all Americans can represent their country overseas, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT+ employees continue to face significant hurdles in finding a posting abroad where they can safely and effectively serve with their families."

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