Page 33 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
colleagues are surprised that any issues still remain for LGBT
employees and our families. “I thought they fxed all of that” is
a common reaction.
The Defense of Marriage Act
Don’t get me wrong: Te changes at State and other foreign
afairs agencies have been hugely benefcial, both practically
and psychologically. But for all the positive press over the des-
ignation of same-sex spouses and partners as Eligible Family
Members, the so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act, passed by
Congress in 1996, puts three crucial categories of benefts out
of reach: health care coverage, pension/inheritance benefts
and immigration rights.
Following the publication of my Speaking Out column,
many colleagues suggested I solve my predicament by marry-
ing my partner in a state where same-sex marriage had been
made legal. Unfortunately, DOMA renders even legal, state-
recognized same-sex marriages null and void at the federal
level, where the most signifcant legal benefts reside.
Te Obama administration has refused to defend the
law and has expressed the view that it is unconstitutional, a
position increasing numbers of federal judges share. But it is
powerless to overturn its provisions.
So until the law is either repealed (extremely unlikely,
given the fact that the current Republican-majority House
of Representatives is actively defending it) or struck down as
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (much more promis-
ing, but by no means assured), DOMA will continue to prevent
me from adding Daniel, my partner of 10 years, to my health
care coverage. Nor is he entitled to inherit my Social Security or
pension benefts. I cannot even petition to have Daniel live in
the United States with me.
Coping with DOMA
So, no, we have most certainly not “fxed all of that.” But I
will be eternally grateful to Sec. Clinton for the very real ben-
efts her policy changes have aforded my family, and those of
all LGBT ofcers.
On the immigration front, GLIFAA partnered with the
Bureau of Consular Afairs and the Bureau of Education and
Cultural Afairs to develop helpful, though still limited, relief.
Specifcally, in 2011 CA announced the creation of a special
exchange visa (J) program for non-U.S. citizen partners of For-
eign Service ofcers, which includes employment authoriza-
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a packed Benjamin Franklin Room commemorating GLIFAA’s 20th
anniversary in November 2012.