Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Senators Russ Feingold and Ron Wyden and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to address inequities in employment practices concerning gay and lesbian State Department employees and to take remedial action.
In a letter sent today, the Members wrote:
"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. As you noted during the question and answer session of your Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing, many other nations now extend training, protection, and benefits to the partners of LGBT employees. Further, 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. Without remedying these inequities, the State Department may fail to attract and retain qualified personnel."
The Members asked Secretary Clinton to institute, among other things, the following changes in State Department policy regarding Foreign Service Officers (FSOs):
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 (EFMs) for same-sex domestic partners of FSOs
Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, a distinguished diplomat, resigned last year from the State Department because of inequitable employment practices. Such disparities "should not be the reason why highly qualified employees leave the State Department at a time when their service is needed more than ever," the Members wrote. More than 2,200 government employees, members of the group Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), also sent a letter to Clinton expressing their concerns on this issue.
Citing Secretary Clinton's pledge during her confirmation hearing to examine current policies relating to lesbian and gay employees at the State Department, the Members wrote: "As you work to advance America's national security and exemplify this great country's values around the world, we hope you will follow through on this pledge and also work to fully support your diverse workforce."