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Discrimination at the State Department

Timothy Kincaid

December 4th, 2007

guest.jpgIn 2001, Colin Powell was the Secretary of State and George W. Bush was settling into his administration. Those of us looking for signs of progress were encouraged when the President selected Michael Guest, an openly gay career State Department diplomat as ambassador to Romania, a post-communist country seeking to enter NATO. We were even happier to see the Secretary of State acknowledge Guest’s partner, Alex Nevarez, at his swearing in ceremony.

As Guest was the first openly gay ambassador confirmed by the Senate, and as Nevarez was encouraged to move with Guest to Romania, some of us hoped that perhaps the administration might be supportive of equality, at least in employment, and the administration’s lack of response to anti-gay protest seemed promising. That was 2001.

By all accounts, Guest performed his duties admirably during a time of significant change and ended his term in 2003 with Romania sharing a closer friendship with the United States, a member of NATO, and well into establishing European contacts that would eventually lead to inclusion in the European Union.

But much has changed since 2001. The President stopped appointing gay people – or even gay-supportive people – to positions of authority. And after failing to meet expectations on the foreign front, his handlers decided that he reelection message would focus on a greater threat to the nation: committed gay couples.

Ultimately this administration went from cautiously supportive to blatantly hostile to gay persons with the threat of a veto over a non-discrimination policy that is overwhelmingly supported by the populace. There are currently no efforts to lift discrimination against gay citizens that are not vehemently opposed by this President.

Subsequent to his ambassadorship, Guest has served the Department as Dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School. But now, after 26 years of service, Guest is calling it quits. And he’s not shy about sharing the reasons why. Per the NY Times,

“Most departing ambassadors use these events to talk about their successes . . . But I want to talk about my signal failure, the failure that in fact is causing me to leave the career that I love,” said Mr. Guest, 50, whose most recent assignment was dean of the leadership and management school at the Foreign Service Institute, the government’s school for diplomats.

“For the past three years, I’ve urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. Absolutely nothing has resulted from this. And so I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner — who is my family — and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary’s leadership and a shame for this institution and our country,” he said.

Among the inequities cited by Mr. Guest and other gay diplomats: unlike heterosexual spouses, gay partners are not entitled to State Department-provided security training, free medical care at overseas posts, guaranteed evacuation in case of a medical emergency, transportation to overseas posts, or special living allowances when foreign service officers are assigned to places like Iraq, where diplomatic families are not permitted.

The Secretary and the administration share the shame of their behavior towards those who, like Michael Guest, make personal sacrifice to serve their nation. And not only gay people but our Nation as a whole is victim to these policies that are hostile to our best and brightest.

Comments

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Yvon Thivierge
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

This is why it is so important to find evidence if Condoleeza Rice is a lesbian. If she is, her condoning of homophobia at the State Department is even more horrific than if she isn’t.

Dana Curtis Kincaid
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Bush has managed to foul up someone else’s life.

I’m sorry to hear that Michael Guest is leaving State.

I”m sorry that Mr. Bush decided to treat the GLBT community like dirt.

I’m not sorry to know that Mr. Bush is just about out of time, options and faces increasing credibility problems. Goodbye, Shrub. You have about a year left to screw things up even more.

CGB
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

All we can do is hope that the 2008 elections are not stolen by the Repubs.

They are already working on how to steal California.

David
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

What a trio of hysterical comments!

Yvon Thivierge wants people to pry into Secretary Rice’s sex life — if she has one. The excuse for this sleazy suggestion is that Rice is condoning homophobia at the State Department. What homophobia? The matter at hand concerns how the State Department deals with employees’ family members other than legally-wed spouses. The Times editorial Timothy cites states, “issue goes beyond the gay community, because elderly parents and adult children living with foreign services officers are also denied such benefits,” and Guest himself said, “This is not about gay rights . . . It’s about equal treatment of all employees.”

Dana Curtis Kincaid thinks President Bush has messed up Michael Guest’s life by not ordering the State Department to dole out benefits to Guest’s partner. This is leftist/progressive politics run amuck: you screw up a man’s life by not buying things for someone he cares about.

And from CGB we get concern that the Republicans may try to steal the 2008 election. Serious claims need some justification. Just how are they working to steal California? The way the Democrats tried to steal Florida in 2000?

People, please think before you post comments. Don’t just vent your livers.

Jim Burroway
December 4th, 2007 | LINK

David, I suggest you watch your own liver. This isn’t about “Buying things.” It’s about some very serious stuff — evacuation, for example. A spouse, children — even pets are evacuated in emergencies by the state department. Unmarried partners, however, are treated the same as tourists, and are even charged for the cost of evacuations.

Relegating this to “buying things” is cold-hearted as well as insulting.

David
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

Well isn’t this great!

Thivierge wants to dig up dirt on Condi Rice’s personal life. Do you criticize Yvon? No.

CGB accuses the Republican Party of plotting to steal the upcoming presidential election. Do you criticize him? No.

Dana Kincaid conviently ignores the fact — clearly stated in the Times editorial — that some of the changes Guest wants “would require congressional action.” He does this in order to blame the president for ruining Guest’s life. Do you criticize him for any of this? No again.

Whom do you criticize? Me for pointing out that most of what Guest wants amounts to the government buying services for the loved ones of employees.

I agree that if the State Department allows a family member to join an employee in country it should be willing to pay for evacuation in a medical emergency. And I find it very disturbing that any such family member(elderly parent, adult child, gay spouse) would be denied State Department-provided security training. However, I didn’t realize I needed to say this in order to point out the absurd hyperbole of saying that Guest’s life had been wrecked.

The first three comments to this thread were all hysterical, as I said. The first two were personally nasty, albeit toward government officials. The first typifies the gay lefts outing campaigns against suspected homosexuals who happen to be Republicans; The second has a general leftist/progressive tone, and the third reads like an announcement from Howard Dean.

I find it disturbing that none of these notes bothered you in the slightest, yet when I made one little comment against leftist politics you felt the need to chastise me for being cold-hearted and insulting.

John
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Poor David, “leftist politics” indeed. Those whom David scorns are talking about basic human rights as freely given in most of the free world excepting the US….perhaps David would be more comfortable living in Iraq or Iran or China or one of the other countries where human rights do not exist.
David needs to watch other then FOX News or read other than the Washington Times for his information.
John

Jim Burroway
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

No, those notes didn’t bother me in the slightest. Call my a lefty all you want. I’ve been called much worse. But I have no patience for anyone who would defend clear acts of ongoing discrimination.

The first typifies the gay lefts outing campaigns against suspected homosexuals who happen to be Republicans

Well, I’d rephrase that myself. I don’t think it’s a particularly “lefty” thing to point out that someone (Republican or any other political bent) is gay when they are aiding, abedting, or promoting discrimination. And by the way, if you think discovering that someone is a lesbian is “digging up dirt,” then you and I have profoundly different views of the world.

Yes, there was some hyperbole and anger in the comments. Nasty is not my style. But when it comes to discrimination, I’ll overlook it to some degree. And you’ll notice, that I merely addressed your comment and nothing more. I’m sorry that you’re hurt that I voiced disagreement with you and not the others, but that’s just the way commentary goes sometimes. Sometimes in our zero-sum culture, we tend to forget that.

Timothy Kincaid
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Secretary Rice’s orientation and the election efforts of various parties are not germane to the conversation so I’m not going to address them.

David,

Inherent in your argument is the assumption that legally-wed spouses that are opposite-sex can and should be treated differently than legally-wed spouses who are same-sex. And that providing absolute equality would be “doling out benefits” and “buying things”.

You propose instead that legally-wed same-sex spouses be relegated to the categories of adult children and elderly parents and other tangentially related parties.

But changing the subject to talk about tangential relatives does not distract us from noting that the State Department is implementing a policy of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nor does it distract us from noting that people of good will are bothered by this policy, but that those who favor discrimination against gays will find ways to counter criticism… even if it means ignoring the content of the thread and attacking other commenters instead.

BEN IN OAKLAND
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

It seems like we will be repeating the same arguments with David again.

David: It all boils down it this, as we have discussed elsewhere. Either homosexuality and heterosexuality– hence gay people and straight people– are going to be treeated equally before AND by the law, or they are not. The same rights, the same resposibilties, the same benefits, nothing more and nothing less.

The first position we call equality, the second one– absent a clear and present danger, problem, illegality, calamity, or any other negative consequence that can be clearly demonstrated of treating gay and straight people the same– we call discrimination and prejudice.

either you accept that equality– gay is neither better nor worse than straight, it just is– or you don’t.

I am not willing to make the claim that gay peoople are better than straight people. Neither am I willing to support the reverse claim.

David
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

You didn’t need to tell me you weren’t bothered in the least by those earlier notes; I already knew that. ;)

It is interesting you bring to my attention your lack of patience for the defense of ongoing discrimination. I did not defend the State Department’s discrimination. I reacted against Dana Kincaid’s statement that a man’s life had been fouled up because his employer wasn’t generous enough.

I agree that at least some of the benefits mentioned in the editiorial are things the State Department should do for its employees family members, but that doesn’t mean it is fair to say an employee’s life has been ruined by the State Department failing to offer them.

Dana Kincaid’s assertion was an expression of the left’s view that one’s rights are something that others have an obligation to pay for. (John’s comment about “basic human rights as freely given in most of the free world” is likewise.) I disagree with this view.

I do not think, nor did I mean to imply, that discovering someone to be a homosexual is “digging up dirt” on that person. Frankly, I do not think what I wrote lends itself to such an interpretation. The phrase “digging up dirt” means trying to find information to embarass the individual; that is exactly what Thivierge had in mind.

Nevertheless we do have very different views of the world, Jim, if you “don’t think it’s a particularly “lefty” thing to point out that someone (Republican or any other political bent) is gay when they are aiding, abedting, or promoting discrimination.”

The gay outing specialists like Mike Rogers are dyed-in-the-wool left-wingers. And their idea of aiding or promoting anti-gay discrimination is disagreeing with them. The Gay Patriot, who has had to personally deal with Rogers, said just yesterday that the gay left has for years been “personally punishing gay Americans for merely not towing the liberal political line on gay policy issues.”

I was not hurt that you disagreed with me and not the others. I was, as I wrote, “disturbed.” I found it disturbing that three hysterical, leftist-biased comments failed to bother you “in the slightest” while one sentence of mine complaining about the left’s promoting people putting their hands out prompts you to lecture me on being cold-hearted.

This is part of a pattern:

Daniel Gonzales thinks that courts are free to create whatever protections they want for whatever minorities they want to protect rather than just apply the law as written.

Timothy Kincaid lauds the passage of ENDA by the House. I ask what power granted to Congress by the Constitution authorizes this act; he proceeds to insinuate that I am a bigot. You post a comment asking people to behave more respectfully; he continues to treat me like dirt anyway.

For a gay web log that wants to serve even “those who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, but wish to avoid the pitfalls of the massive misinformation coming from all sides of the issues,” all three of you seem to have a hard time realizing that there are those who care about the welfare and dignity of gay people who do not support left-wing politics.

Jim Burroway
December 5th, 2007 | LINK

DAvid, you’re just going to have to deal with the fact that people disagree with you, and they do so honestly. Daniel does, Timothy does, and to be perfectly frank, so do I. I don’t think that means anyone is treating you like dirt. I don’t however believe that we are going to be able to bridge the gap between us. If you can simply say that we all agree to disagree, then that’s fine. I do however recognize that politics are pretty rough-and-tumble. I am not required in comments to be “fair and balanced” when expressing my opinion. And neither is anyone else. That’s the cool thing about comments. It’s commentary.

And another beautiful thing about commentary, is that any one of us gets to decide what statement they may want to challenge. I hope you don’t feel picked on, but I chose yours. I could have easily chosen anyone else, but yes, to be honest, I wasn’t disturbed by them. Take that for what you will. But before you stomp off and label me a “lefty” you might want to notice that I have challenged people on the left — and have gone so far as to put some of them on moderation and banned them.

But if you are disturbed by a lack of balance in the comments, then I am sure that Gay Patriot or someone else can provide the “balance” that you seek.

I’m not interested in this thread becoming sidetracked into personal complaints. If someone wants to comment about the post, feel free. But the topic of this thread is not about who said what nasty thing to who (when in fact what’s said here is quite mild compared to Fox News, MSNBC and CNN — or Gay Patriot or Kos).

Please everyone, grow a skin. And either get back to the topic or move on.

David
December 6th, 2007 | LINK

Timothy,

Your response to me here is nearly as hysterical as the three posts I originally criticized!

You are twisting my words when you say I think providing equality is about doling out benefits. Dana did not accuse Bush of treating Guest unfairly; he accused Bush of ruining Guest’s life. And the manner of ruining Guest’s life was not getting the government to pay for enough benefits.

Inherent in your argument is the assumption that legally-wed spouses that are opposite-sex can and should be treated differently than legally-wed spouses who are same-sex.

Now just how the hell do you come to this conclusion? This is the same sort of bullsh*t you pulled with me on the ENDA thread. No, I take that back — this is actually worse! There you were guessing at an opinion I didn’t state; here you are making my argument run counter to what I actually said.

It was not I who brought up the matter of adult children and elderly parents. The Times editorial you linked to did that! Michael guest himself said the issue goes beyond gay partners.

Oh, and a person’s parents and adult offspring are only “tangentially related parties”? Just who are you to tell people that their immediate blood relations are less their family than their spouses?

The State Department is not implementing a policy of discrimination based on sexual orientation; its policy is biased in favor of the traditional model of the nuclear family: mom, dad, and the kids. Any family structure that doesn’t fit that mold is out of luck.

I’m afraid you’re the one being insensitive here, Tim.

David
December 6th, 2007 | LINK

Jim,

I know you want me to “grow a skin” so I won’t comment on this thread again, but I have not found your responses thus far to be entirely satisfactory.

I have no problem dealing with the fact that others honestly disagree with me. Frankly, it’s a bit insulting that you think I do. You don’t seem to understand my concerns at all.

I am concerned because all three contributors to this site seem to come from the exact same place politically. This creates the same sort of problem a newspaper would have if all of its reporters were of the same political bent.

I admit I do not like the reflexive leftism found in most of the gay blogosphere. But I honestly think BTB would be best served by being free of it. It is not a matter of finding balance somewhere else. (In any event, a polemical political site like Gay Patriot cannot be a balance of any sort to BTB.)

I’m sorry if it bothers you to be so labeled, Jim, but you are something of a lefty. If you weren’t you would have understood what my criticism of Dana Kincaid was about.

If you don’t think I was treated like dirt on the ENDA thread I invite you to read through it again from start to finish.

In that thread I stated I was asking about congressional authority “because I worry about the way people’s policy desires overule something all citizens should share: a desire for constitutional governance,” and that my questions weren’t “about whether or not employment discrimation is good or bad.” Yet in his second reply to me Timothy Kincaid presumes to tell me I’m prejudiced against gay people. (Although not in so many words.) When I continued to ask for an answer to my question based on the law, Timothy replied:

If you want to debate theories about constitutionality in general, call a buddy and go have some beers. I’m not interested.

Translation:‘Don’t bother me with your pesky questions, you miserable little piss-ant. I don’t have to justify my opinions.’

And what do you know — Tim’s at it again in this very thread!

…those who favor discrimination against gays will find ways to counter criticism… even if it means ignoring the content of the thread and attacking other commenters instead.

There he is again telling us all what I believe based on things I never said. I know you have challenged people on the left. You have even done so in defense of me. But if you want me to be really impressed, you’ll suspend Timothy.

Timothy Kincaid
December 6th, 2007 | LINK

David,

While the authors do come from different ideologies and political parties, we do share a common belief about how citizens should be treated under law. For example, we view a “policy [that] is biased in favor of the traditional model of the nuclear family: mom, dad, and the kids” to be discriminatory. It violates the notion of “all men are created equal” and replaces it with “heterosexuals deserve more than homosexuals”.

You may disagree. I don’t care. This is our shared perspective and it will be a consistent theme in our writing.

You seem unhappy with the content and perspective of our site. Perhaps you would be happier at some site that considers “leftist” to be the ultimate insult. We don’t here.

(oh, and incidentally, I DON’T have to justify my opinions nor is Jim going to “suspend” me for having them)

Jason
December 6th, 2007 | LINK

I get so tired of this looming it’s ugly head.

A)Gays are denied the benefits of a spouse because we’re not married.

So the people say “Oh, it’s not because you’re gay, it’s because you’re not married.”

B)Gays are not allowed to be married because our partners are the same gender.

So the people say “Oh it’s not because you’re gay, it’s because you don’t have an opposite sex partner.”

I fail to see how that is not “sexual orientation descrimination.”

If a person in a wheelchair was told they could not have a job on the 3rd floor we wouldn’t accept this, but the logic would be the same.
“Oh, it’s not because you’re in a wheelchair, it’s because the job is on the third floor.”

“Oh it’s not because you’re in a wheelchair, it’s because you can’t get up the stairs.”

It’s technically possible that a person in a wheelchair could crawl to the third floor on their hands and face, but long ago we realized that it was unfair, insulting, and unequal.

I wonder how long it’s going to take for us to get “an elevator”?

Jim Burroway
December 6th, 2007 | LINK

David, you’re welcome to comment here and share your opinions. But I trust this temper tantrum of yours has come to and end. I’ve said all I have to say. Any more comments here not related to this thread will be deleted.

Blogcabin California » Discrimination at the State Department
December 15th, 2007 | LINK

[…] http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/12/04/1093 […]

michaellgooch
May 12th, 2008 | LINK

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. Sad to say, this ancient truth is nowhere to be seen in the modern American arena. Do we discriminate against gays, women, blacks and Hispanics? What a strange world that we still have issues regarding discrimination. Like sexual harassment, the true victims rarely report it while the abused suffer in silence. This is a problem. Huge Problem. In my book, Wingtips with Spurs, I devote a chapter to pay discrimination and how it is often over-looked or swept into a dark corner. And yes, it still exists in modern America. While we pour more stupid laws into the books to prevent such painful actions, we fail to fix the real problem, that is, the root. In addition, we have been conditioned by lawyers to believe that legal and moral are the same thing. So sad. Whenever a human is treated differently than the masses, we should take a cold, hard look at the situation. A hard look indeed. Maybe even the mirror. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR http://www.michaellgooch.com

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