I know this has been covered by several other sites today, but I still wanted to dedicate a short post to the internal State Department memo written by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcing the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers. There is no word on when it will take effect, but this kind of progress is very heartening. So much of the recent mainstream debate about gay rights has been focused on same-sex marriage at the expense of recognizing how much work needs to be done to advance equality in the realm of things like partnership benefits and job discrimination.
Secretary Clinton has previously said, “I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide.” But the extension of benefits had previously been denied by those who invoked the Defense of Marriage Act that limits federal recognition of any kind of same-sex partnership. The effects of benefit extension would cover areas like “diplomatic passports, use of medical facilities at overseas posts, medical and other emergency evacuation, transportation between posts, and training in security and languages” — all things that are currently available to partners of heterosexual Foreign Service officers. Additionally, it could change the extant policy where “diplomats with domestic partners could be evacuated from a hazardous country by the American government while their partners were left behind.” Hopefully this will go through soon and survive any legislative challenges that might possibly arise.