What About Gay Staff's Partners?
I'd like to applaud one HRC, that being Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for holding a town hall meeting for the department's employees. She held the frank discussion on January 26, and a transcript and tape of it have been shared on the department's site.
One comment related to gay and lesbian staffers, and their partners. On the video, you'll see Clinton deal with this at the 30:00 mark:
[State Department facilitator]: Our next sounding board entry comes from Selim Ariturk, an economic officer in Azerbaijan. He says, “Madame Secretary, gay and lesbian staff worldwide have been so heartened by the wonderful changes you have made since you took office. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when I look at my HR records and finally see the word ‘family member.’ More than any of the financial benefits, those two words say so much about the kind of atmosphere you have set. Thank you so much for all you have done. Many of us still face problems coming home to the U.S. with our partners, and I wonder if you could help us by talking to Congress about the challenges we face. Thank you for your consideration and thank you again for all you’ve done.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and thanks to everyone who has supported and embraced this policy change. I’ve met with people across the world at every – just about every post I’ve visited, which are a lot by now. And we will continue to follow up on issues that arise, but we’re very proud that the State Department led the way on this.
Always good to see gay matters raised with Secretary Clinton, and recent changes benefiting the partners of gay staffers are a step forward. That being said, I would have liked for the gay staffers to also have also asked her about the U.S. applying stronger pressure on Uganda, Malawi, Jamaica and other countries where the human rights of gay people are violated.
And I wish Clinton had used the "g" and "l" words in her reply, and also offered specifics about what the department will do regarding follow up. Nice to have her vague assurances, but details are required.
Regarding the other HRC, that being the Human Rights Campaign, they could learn a valuable lesson from Clinton's town hall this week, along with President Obama's public forum a few days ago in Tampa, Florida, where he was asked about gay marriage.
HRC leaders, starting with Joe Solmonese at the top, should follow the Obama and Clinton examples of holding free-flowing public exchanges with the public they serve. Click here to read my suggestion to Solmonese back in November to hold town halls.
If our President and Secretary of State can host town halls, why can't the Human Rights Campaign?