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Hillary Clinton: Expanding LGBT Rights At State

Secretary Clinton transformed the State Dept. by expanding LGBT rights and promoting equality for employees.

While Sec. Clinton was telling the world that gay rights were human rights, her message of LGBT equality started at home at the State Department. She strived to ensure the State Department was an LGBT-friendly place to work, extending several benefits to Foreign Service employees which served as a model for other agencies. Building on Sec. Clinton’s efforts, President Obama expanded federal benefits to “same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.”

“Now, leaders of all kinds will stand in front of audiences like this and tell you that our most important asset is our people…But what our success truly depends on is our ability to forge strong relationships and relate to people of all backgrounds. And what that means for me, as your Secretary, is that creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.” -Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 11/28/12

Implemented Policies to Make the State Department an LGBT-Friendly Workforce

Sec. Clinton directed the State Department’s equal employment opportunity policy to “explicitly protect against discriminatory treatment of employees and job applicants based on gender identity.”

In her book Hard Choices, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote, “In 2010, I directed that the State Department’s equal employment opportunity policy explicitly protect against discriminatory treatment of employees and job applicants based on gender identity. We also made it easier for Americans to change the sex listed on their passport and made it possible for same-sex couples to obtain passports under the names recognized by their state through their marriage or civil union.” [Hard Choices, pg. 578, 2014]

Sec. Clinton updated State Department policy to offer equal benefits and protections to same-sex partners of American diplomats.

According to the New York Times, “The State Department will offer equal benefits and protections to same-sex partners of American diplomats, according to an internal memorandum Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent last week to an association of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers. Mrs. Clinton said the policy change addressed an inequity in the treatment of domestic partners and would help the State Department recruit diplomats, since many international employers already offered such benefits. ‘Like all families, our Foreign Service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our post communities abroad,’ Mrs. Clinton said in the memorandum, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by a member of the gay and lesbian association. ‘At bottom,’ she said, ‘the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex partners because it is the right thing to do.’” [The New York Times, 5/23/09]

Sec. Clinton extended to the “partners of gay U.S. diplomats” many benefits, including visas and diplomatic passports.

According to the Washington Post, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that the partners of gay U.S. diplomats are eligible for many benefits currently denied them and allowed to spouses of heterosexual diplomats, according to lawmakers and others advocating the change. […] Thus those partners were denied a wide array of benefits, such as paid travel to and from overseas posts, shipments of household effects, visas and diplomatic passports, emergency travel to visit ill or injured partners, and evacuation in case of a security emergency or medical necessity. Those benefits will be extended to all unmarried domestic partners — both same-sex and heterosexual — under the policy shift to be announced by Clinton in the coming days, according to a draft memo prepared for Clinton’s signature.” [Washington Post, 5/25/09]

Sec. Clinton ended regulations denying same-sex couples and families “the same rights and privileges” of straight diplomats, including use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.

According to the Associated Press, “In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are ‘unfair and must end,’ as they harm U.S. diplomacy. ‘Providing training, medical care and other benefits to domestic partners promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad,’ she says in the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. […] Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.” [Associated Press, 5/24/09]

With Sec. Clinton’s “strong encouragement,” USAID became the first federal agency to publish a recruitment brochure targeting LGBT applicants.

In a presentation at the 20th anniversary celebration for GLIFAA, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg said, “With the strong encouragement of the President and Secretary Clinton, we were the first federal agency to publish a recruitment brochure targeting LGBT applicants. Along with the State Department, we’ve adopted new regulations to provide full benefits for same-sex domestic partners for our various classes of employees. We’ve proudly sworn-in openly gay mission directors to lead key missions abroad, and we’re providing awards to those within our ranks who are leading the LGBT space. Our internal list-serve, LGBT Champions, provides a forum for 200 officials to address these issues. And we meet regularly with GLIFFA to seek your guidance and counsel.” [Donald Steinberg Presentation at the 20th Anniversary Celebration for GLIFAA, usaid.gov, 11/28/12]

Worked with LGBT Organizations to Strengthen Policies

Sec. Clinton recommended Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) for an award, applauding its “17 years of promoting equality in the federal workplace.”

According to a USAID press release, “GLIFAA membership consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and straight employees of U.S. federal agencies including USAID and the Department of State. As part of this award process, GLIFAA received letters of recommendation from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Representative Tammy Baldwin, and the Human Rights Campaign. Secretary Clinton applauded GLIFAA for 17 years of promoting equality in the federal workplace and acknowledged its influence in changing Department of State policy regarding same-sex partners of Foreign Service Officers. ‘This change in policy will increase morale and help us to retain our talented employees,’ said Clinton.” [“Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies Named Employee Resource Group of the Year,” usaid.gov, 10/9/09]

GLIFAA was the first federal employee organization to be named “Employee Resource Group (ERG) of the year by Out and Equal Workplace Advocates.”

According to a USAID press release, “Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) was named Employee Resource Group (ERG) of the year by Out and Equal Workplace Advocates. GILFAA is the first federal employee organization to receive an award from Out and Equal. Ajit Joshi, Program Director for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance and Policy Director for GLIFAA, will accept the award on behalf of GLIFAA.” [“Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies Named Employee Resource Group of the Year,” usaid.gov, 10/9/09]

Recognized for Efforts to Advance LGBT Rights within the State Department

USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg: Sec. Clinton made it “easy to be an LGBT advocate within the State Department and USAID.”

According to USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg at the 20th anniversary celebration for GLIFAA, “It’s a great privilege to add my welcome to you at this celebration of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies’ (GLIFFA) first two decades. I wanted to begin by thanking you, the activists and advocates who have stepped forward, often at great personal risk, to claim your rights and those of the LGBT community around the world. I also wanted to thank President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Counselor Mills for making it easy to be an LGBT advocate within the State Department and USAID.” [Donald Steinberg Presentation at the 20th Anniversary Celebration for GLIFAA, usaid.gov, 11/28/12]

Amb. Rice: Sec. Clinton’s extension of benefits for LGBT State Department employees overseas “served as a model for similar changes on behalf of American LGBT staff of the UN Secretariat.”

According to the United States’ UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement on LGBT pride month, “The Obama Administration has taken active steps to honor this commitment, starting in the federal workforce. Last summer, the President extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of U.S. Government federal employees. I am pleased that Secretary Clinton’s extension of benefits for overseas State Department employees has served as a model for similar changes on behalf of American LGBT staff of the UN Secretariat. Thanks to this work, the partners and families of many hard-working Americans serving abroad may now receive the benefits, training, and allowances that are increasingly the standard for world-class international civil servants. I am very proud of the contributions of LGBT employees in the foreign affairs agencies of the U.S. Government, and am pleased to see that these actions will support them as they continue their good work.” [Susan Rice Statement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, usun.state.gov, 6/30/10]

GLIFAA Policy Director Ajit Joshi predicted that Sec. Clinton’s actions to extend benefits for LGBT Foreign Service staff “may have serious ‘domino-effect’ benefits for LGBT diplomats of other nations.”

According to a USAID press release, “GLIFAA’s successful influence on this policy came from its grass roots coalition of 2,200 people, 92% of whom were married to an opposite-sex spouse or single, and efforts on the Hill, the Administration, and LGBT organizations. [GLIFAA Policy Director Ajit] Joshi predicts that Secretary Clinton’s actions ‘may have serious “domino-effect” benefits for LGBT diplomats of other nations serving in the United States, LGBT immigrants, and LGBT government employees outside the State Department.’” [“Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies Named Employee Resource Group of the Year,” usaid.gov, 10/9/09]