Saturday, May 30, 2009

Equality rights for gay diplomats

Once again showing off my relative ignorance to certain political stuff: I had no idea gay diplomats, representing the United States around the world, were denied certain legal rights and privileges that their heterosexual counterparts fully enjoyed. While normally I'd get fairly indignant from this, the news is actually good: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (still the next-best-thing to becoming President, I'd say) has announced that America will finally grant the same legal rights and benefits to legal representatives and their families, in the name of equality and fairness – yet also for efficiency and practicality.

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.

"It will also help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers," she says.

"At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do," Clinton says.

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.

In addition, gay diplomats' families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, the message says.

These seemingly simple and basic rights were previously denied from the families of gay diplomats, usually in citing that stupid Defense of Marriage Law. By far Clinton's worst legacy, really. How depriving gay diplomats' families basic rights that would ensure efficiency and security has anything to do with gay marriage, is as of yet beyond me. (But then, never underestimate the irrationality of bigotry.)

These revisions aren't only the right thing to do on a basic moral level; they also have appreciable pragmatic results in allowing homosexual diplomats the same sorts of legal liberties and freedoms their straight counterparts already possess, allowing for a rather more equal playing field.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)


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