Foreign Service Same-Sex Domestic Partners Get Benefits

HRC’s Statement on Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees:

While a career in the Foreign Service is rewarding, the demands to serve our country require great commitment and sacrifice by Foreign Service employees and their families. As in American society, our Foreign Service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our Post communities abroad. Family members often uproot their lives, endure hardship conditions, and put their own careers on hold to support our overseas missions. The Department of State acknowledges these vital contributions by providing certain family members with benefits, training, and allowances.

The same has not been true for domestic partners of Foreign Service employees. While these partners support the work of our overseas posts, they are not granted benefits and allowances provided for other family members. Domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally. As one of my first acts as Secretary, I directed the Department to review whether we had the flexibility to extend additional benefits to domestic partners.

Yesterday, the President issued a memorandum reflecting his commitment to ensuring that same-sex domestic partners receive the maximum benefits that each agency legally can undertake. I am pleased to announce that the Department of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad.

Changing our policy to provide training, medical care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners will promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad. It will 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. This change is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do.

We will implement this policy by changing our Foreign Affairs Manual and the Standardized Regulations to allow the same-sex domestic partners of the Department’s Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances. Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners as well. To qualify for these benefits and allowances on behalf of a same-sex domestic partner, an employee must file an affidavit identifying his or her same-sex domestic partner and certifying to certain eligibility requirements that will be set forth in the FAM.

The Department of State intends to provide the following additional benefits and allowances for declared same-sex domestic partners of eligible employees serving overseas:

  • Diplomatic passports,
  • Inclusion on employee travel orders to and from posts abroad,
  • Shipment of household effects,
  • Inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations,
  • Family member preference for employment at posts abroad,
  • Use of medical facilities at posts abroad,
  • Medical evacuation from posts abroad,
  • Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives,
  • Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts abroad,
  • Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts abroad,
  • Inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (e.g., payment for quarters, cost of living, and other allowances),
  • Representation expenses, and
  • Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

The Department also will work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work in the local economy.

We look forward to implementing these changes.

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Wow! Change has come to the State Department. See original statement here. I am deeply proud of the State Department today. Here’s a shout out to Digger of Life After Jerusalem and to my two dear friends heading off to their new assignment.

Human Trafficking Right in a US Neighborhood

Wisconsin MDs Forced Woman to Work as Domestic Servant for 19 Years

The State Department has just released its 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report on 175 nations. It is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. The stories are deplorable, the numbers are staggering:

Victims of Trafficking

(UN International Labor Organization Estimates)

  • 12.3 million adults and children at any time, in forced labor and sexual servitude
  • 1.39 million victims of sex trafficking, both national and transnational
  • 56% of forced labor victims are women and girls

State says that “The past year, marked by the onset of a global financial crisis, has raised the specter of increased human trafficking around the world. Two concurrent trends – a shrinking global demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities – seem a recipe for greater forced labor of migrant workers and commercial sexual exploitation of women in prostitution.”

In some places of the world, people have been living a life of daily economic crisis for years that working overseas, despite the risks, would seem like winning the “lottery.”

Earlier this month, DOJ reported that Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora Calimlim, both medical doctors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were each re-sentenced to 72 months in prison for forcing a woman, Erma Martinez, to work as their domestic servant and illegally harboring her for 19 years in their Brookfield, Wisconsin residence.

According to evidence presented at trial, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife recruited and brought the victim from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1985 when she was 19 years old. In September 2004, federal law enforcement officers responding to a tip removed the victim, then age 38, from the Calimlim’s residence through the execution of a federal search warrant. The victim testified that for 19 years she was hidden in the Calimlim’s home, forbidden from going outside and told that she would be arrested, imprisoned and deported if she was discovered.

Almost 20 years of one’s life gone – just like that.

If you read the victim’s story here, you may find that she was a victim twice over; victimized first by her employers in the United States, and second by the relatives in her home country who depended on her for everything. There is judicial remedy for the first; there is none for the second.

Her salary paid for the education of all her younger siblings, from costumes in the Christmas pageants to college computer programs. The dutiful daughter paid for her father’s blood pressure medicine and her mother’s tumor operation and for plots of land. She paid for a water buffalo to pull a plow on the farm, and later a Honda tractor. Martinez’s mother gave her choices about where her money went: Did she want her brothers studying to be police officers or nurses? Did she want to buy dresses for her nieces for Christmas? And almost every letter came with a request for more.“Your father, Glen and Nonoy Kee are also asking that you buy them a watch and a set of necklace, ring and earrings for me. My earrings have lost its shine and some of the stones have come off.”

According to the 2009 TIP Report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certified 286 foreign adult victims in FY 2008, and issued eligibility letters to 31 foreign minors. Forty-five percent of the 286 certified adult trafficking victims were male, a notable increase from the 30 percent adult male trafficking victims certified in FY 2007 and the six percent adult male trafficking victims certified in FY 2006. Certified victims came from 40 countries. Primary countries of origin were Mexico (66), Thailand (56), Philippines (46), Korea (12), and China (8). Certification and Eligibility Letters allow human trafficking survivors to access services and benefits, comparable to assistance provided by the United States to refugees.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides two principal types of immigration relief authorized by the TVPA: (1) continued presence (CP) to human trafficking victims who are potential witnesses during investigation or prosecution, and (2) T non-immigrant status or “T-visas,” a special self-petitioned visa category for trafficking victims. In FY 2008, DHS/ICE’s Law Enforcement Parole Branch approved 225 requests for CP and 101 requests for extensions of existing CPs. DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued 247 T-visas to foreign survivors of human trafficking identified in the United States and 171 T-visas to their immediate family members. As part of the assistance provided under the TVPA, the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration funds the Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program for Victims of Trafficking. In calendar year 2008, the program assisted 105 cases. Of these cases, two trafficking victims elected to return to their country of origin, and 103 family members were reunited with trafficking survivors in the United States. Since its inception in 2005, the program has assisted around 250 people from 35 countries.

POTUS: Toward Achieving Equality on Federal Benefits

On June 17, President Obama released a statement on the Presidential Memorandum and Non-Discrimination, and support of the Lieberman-Baldwin Benefits Legislation.

In 2007, Michael Guest, the first openly gay Ambassador confirmed by the United States Senate, resigned from the Foreign Service. He loved his career, but he had to leave it in the end — because he believed that the country he served was failing to implement the principles of equality it espoused abroad. His partner was ineligible for training provided to Ambassadorial spouses; he bore the costs of his partner’s transportation to his placements abroad; and his partner did not receive the overseas benefits and allowances given to spouses of Ambassadors.

It is too late to prevent Ambassador Guest from having to make the choice he made, but today I am proud to issue a Presidential Memorandum that will go a long way toward achieving equality for many of the hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic LGBT Americans serving in our Federal Government — Americans like Ambassador Guest. In consultation with Secretary Clinton, who in her role as Secretary of State oversees our foreign service employees, and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, my Administration has identified a number of areas in which greater equality can be achieved under existing law by extending to the same-sex partners of Federal employees many of the same benefits already available to the spouses of heterosexual Federal employees. I am therefore requesting the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to extend the benefits they have identified to the same-sex partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved consistent with Federal law. I am also requesting the heads of all other executive departments and agencies to conduct a review of the benefits they administer to determine which may legally be extended to same-sex partners.

But this Presidential Memorandum is just a start. Unfortunately, my Administration is not authorized by existing Federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That’s why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It’s discriminatory, it interferes with States’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.

Continue reading President Obama’s statement here.

Read the Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination here.

Read Digger’s post (Life After Jerusalem) on this here.

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There was one post where local embassy employees were allowed to receive flu shots from the Health Unit, but partners of same sex couples were not. One of these partners happened to be taking care of their minor dependents. So that was real flu prevention. I also remember talking to one DG a few years back about this only to be told it was “DOMA’s” fault. DOMA my foot! DOMA apparently is interested on “defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage.” But about 50 percent of marriages end up in divorce in the United States; who’s worried about that?

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court decided that DOMA is unconstitutional when applied to exclude same-sex married couples from federal employee benefits.

As I was writing this today, my elementary grade son who is now home for summer vacation was interested on what I was writing. I gave him a quick explanation and used the example of two friends who are in a same-sex marriage. He thought for a moment then wondered out loud, “Who thought of these rules? They are both human beings.”

Related Item:
Fact Sheet Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non Discrimination