US State Department gays ask for equal treatment for same-sex partners

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More than 2,000 employees of the US federal government who work overseas have written to the new Secretary of State asking for equal treatment for same-sex partners.

Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) organised the letter, signed by 2,200 employees.

“We believe that no colleague of ours is a second-class colleague, and no colleague’s family is a second-class family,” it said.

“We question the logic of leaving same-sex partners to fend for themselves during an emergency evacuation of a high danger post.

“We are embarrassed when the Department will reimburse a variety of moving expenses, including the cost of transporting a pet, when an employee is assigned overseas, but will not do the same for a same-sex partner.”

GLIFAA represents gay and lesbian personnel and their families in the US Department of State, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and other foreign affairs agencies and offices in the US Government.

It was founded in 1992 by fewer than a dozen employees who faced official harassment and potential loss of their jobs because of their sexual orientation.

Under the current regulations a US State Department employee’s spouse can claim several rights which are denied to unmarried partners and same-sex partners.

Other issues include the lack of training for same-sex partners to recognise terrorist threats, the lack of medical care and the need to pay for one’s own transportation when one’s partner is on duty.

During her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Mrs Clinton was asked by Senator Russ Feingold if she will support “changes to existing personnel policy in order to ensure that LGBT staff at State and USAID receive equal benefits and support.”

She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “we should take a hard look at the existing policy” and she has asked for more briefing on the issue.

“My understanding is other nations have moved to extend that partnership benefit. And we will come back to you to inform you of decisions we make going forward,” she said.