Blog Post

Clinton Wants Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to do her best to secure equal benefits for same-sex couples employed in U.S. Foreign Affairs. The promise came after the Secretary was given a letter signed by 2,000 U.S. foreign policy workers. “We believe that no colleague of ours is a second-class colleague, and no colleague’s family is a second-class family’,” the letter stated. According to a report by the Washington Times, the letter campaign was organized by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and is asking for a wide array of benefits presently denied to same-sex couples. These include paid travel to and from overseas posts, employment opportunities at the embassy, visas and diplomatic passports, mail privileges and evacuation in case of a security emergency or medical necessity. "We question the logic of leaving same-sex partners to fend for themselves during an emergency evacuation of a high danger post," the letter said. "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." During her first town hall meeting with State Department employees since taking office, Mrs. Clinton pledged to look for ways to provide "training, benefits and protections" to same-sex partners who accompany Foreign Service officers to overseas posts. "This is an issue of real concern to me. Even though all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad," she said. "I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide." Currently, same-sex partners are designated as "members of household," which allows them to live with diplomats in government-funded housing but offers no other benefits. Mrs. Clinton warned that there are legal limits to what she can do because gay marriage is not recognized by federal law. "We are reviewing what would need to be changed -- what we can legally change. A lot of things we cannot legally change by a decision in the State Department," she said. "But let’s see what we can determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are moving on that expeditiously." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.