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Photo by J. Scott Applewhite -- Associated Press Today's Washington Post has a fascinating article on the State Department's evolution from an agency, in the 1950's, that had fired employees for "moral weaknesses" to today's agency that embraces the diversity of all its employees, including its openly gay employees. We knew that the State Department was pretty gay friendly, when just a few months ago, during the hearings on State Department's budget request for 2008, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) suggested to Secretary Condoleezza Rice that the State Department might want to hire some of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual linguists dismissed from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The response was positive. The Post later reported that
"Last night, Ackerman said in an interview that, after the hearing, he received a call from an aide to Rice who said that his suggestion was being taken seriously."
Today we learn just how friendly State is. Today's article features the story of Mark Dybul, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. He is the third openly gay ambassador at the State Department, and during his swearing-in ceremony last October, Secretary Rice acknowledged his partner, Jason Claire, and his mother-in-law, who was also present. The Post rightly points out the contrast between the State Department's policy towards its lesbian, gay and bisexual employees and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law banning open service in the military:
In stark contrast to the Pentagon policy of "don't ask, don't tell," the State Department acknowledges its gay employees, allows their partners to live in official residences overseas, helps them obtain foreign residence visas, and has sent out a cable to missions encouraging U.S. ambassadors to include diplomats' partners in social and official functions.
While the Pentagon fires at least two service members everyday solely because of their sexual orientation, openly gay civilian employees of the federal government (including civilian employees at the Department of Defense) are embraced and recognized for their service to our country. Isn't it time we embraced and recognized all Americans for their service to our nation, regardless of their sexual orientation? Isn't it time we called on Congress to lift the ban? - Rebecca Sawyer

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1 Comments

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F. Schreiber on May 27, 2009 at 03.35 am

Please tell me how the Dept. of Defense embraces gay civilian employees.  Working as a civilian contractor in Europe, my partner is not eligible for command sponsorship, and therefore, not eligible for the privileges of a heterosexual spouse, such as employment preference, obtaining a local driver’s license, Base privileges, etc.  He had to go through the local immigration office, and we spent over $10,000 in legal fees for him to obtain permission to reside here.  He also has to take foreign language classes to maintain residency permission.