Saturday, April 25, 2015

Randy Berry: LGBT envoy ‘an innovation’

I meant to bring this to your attention when it came out last week.

The Blade did a nice piece on Randy Berry, the new LGBT envoy for the Department. You should go check it out:

Randy Berry: LGBT envoy ‘an innovation’

Friday, April 24, 2015

Well Done, GLIFAA!

I want to congratulate GLIFAA on taking on one of the more serious issues facing LGBT diplomats today, the issue of accreditation.

Basically, when a diplomat is assigned to a country, that country also gives a type of diplomatic immunity to the diplomat's spouse. If the country refuses, as is too often the case if the diplomat has a same-sex spouse, that spouse goes to post at his or her own peril.

GLIFAA President Selim Ariturk was interviewed on the issue for an article called Gay Diplomats Say State Department Is Failing Their Families.

And they are right.

For those diplomats who cannot get their spouses accredited to a country, they must generally either break their assignment or go to post alone. The spouse can visit, as I did when my wife was assigned to Azerbaijan, only for one month at a time, or whatever is allowed by that country's tourist visa, at which time they must leave the country with no guarantee they will be allowed back in.

Now on the one hand, that is fine. Most Foreign Service Officers do what are called "unaccompanied tours," which is where the spouse cannot join the diplomat. But you see, there are a series of boxes we all need to check in order to make Senior Foreign Service, and one of those is to do an unaccompanied tour. But it only "counts" if you do it at places specifically designated "unaccompanied." So if you are an LGBT diplomat forced to be apart from your spouse because a country won't accredit him or her, you still need to do another one to be considered for our senior ranks. And that isn't fair. The Department can and should choose to make these tours "count."

But what is more, in many countries, the Department could use a stronger hand. No, you are not trying to change that culture (though working for LGBT rights worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the administration), we could say fine, for each legal spouse of ours you refuse to accredit, we will not accredit one of yours. Reciprocity, a tried and true method for getting our people treated equally. I can't imagine that we would stand for a country denying accreditation to a spouse based on race, so we shouldn't stand for it here.

As it is, officers are having their careers harmed by an unwillingness by posts, HR or the Department to find a way to make it work. They are unable to accept jobs that would be good for their careers (don't mistake a reference to a "plum" assignment as meaning a cushy one...for example, I consider my onward assignment to Kosovo to be a plum assignment because the work will be interesting, important and good for my career advancement).

For example, the article says "
In one case, a diplomat who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation told BuzzFeed News that since joining the foreign service in 2010 he has twice been all-but-promised a plum post in a country where they needed his specialized language skills only to be reassigned at the last minute because of this country’s policy toward same-sex partners. When this first happened in 2011, the diplomat said that his State Department career development officer told him, 'There aren’t a lot of places that will accredit your same-sex partner, so if you choose to continue in this relationship it will adversely affect your career.'"

Even more senior members of the service have been affected. My wife and I aren't affected by this because we are a tandem, meaning we each get diplomatic accreditation in our own right and not based on our marriage. But the Department can and should do more to help those not as fortunate as we are.

One a side note, poor Selim and GLIFAA got absolutely flamed by GLIFAA members for doing this interview. People said they should apologize to Secretary Kerry and to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Human Resources Phil Lussier because the Department of State is a great place for LGBT people to work.

They are right that is it s a great place to work for LGBT people, but make not mistake. It is a great place too work because GLIFAA pushed for equality and fairness for LGBT employees. Selim was with me when we delivered the document on Secretary Clinton's first day, a petition from our colleagues for equal treatment for LGBT employees and a list of changes Secretary Clinton could make with the stroke of a pen. That document, based on the hard work of GLIFAA, is what led to changes that have continued through the group's efforts.

So BRAVO to Selim and GLIFAA for continuing to demand more from the Department in terms of treating all its employees equally. Well done!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

No, It Isn't Enough

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I am concerned with the lack of a out lesbian or out person of color Ambassador. I discussed it most recently regarding the gathering of all the LGBT Ambassadors at the Newseum.

Or I should say, out gay white male Ambassadors, because that was what that was. And if it hadn't been for one lone FSO, I'd have had to qualify it as out gay white male political appointee ambassadors.

Turns out, I wasn't the only one who noticed.

Dr. Marcie Bianco wrote a piece on called This Photo Represents a Major Problem in the LGBT Rights Movement.

She says in the article, "White men running the show is not "progress." It's more of the same. But when its leaders better reflect the greater LGBT movement, whether they're appointed by members, nonprofit boards or the government, true equality can become attainable for everyone."

She isn't wrong, While I would not say it is "no" progress, it is certainly not enough progress. We can do better than this.

Ironically, I would not have seen this article had it not been posted on the GLIFAA Facebook page. I say ironically because it was posted by someone who was angry that she said this wasn't progress. He ranted about how it was great progress, and when my wife and I dared to object (as did many other lesbians to us privately), we were absolutely flamed over it. How dare we question the good work of these ambassadors (we weren't). How dare we look after our own self-interests (we weren't). We were merely pointing out that Dr. Bianco is right, it isn't enough.

The person who flamed us (and attacked us personally...I continue to be disappointed that those comments have been allowed to remain on the GLIFAA page), said that six of the Ambassadors had people of color for spouses. That is great, but all of the married U.S. presidents had female wives and that doesn't mean that the Presidency was attainable for a woman. Likewise, African-American men got the vote long before their wives did. I suppose their wives should have just been content with "progress" made by their community and not continued to push for rights of their own.

The fact is that racism and sexism still exist, and the picture of the six gay white male ambassadors highlights that. For contrast, I'd like to point out another photo, taken at the Chief of Mission conference recently. It is a picture of all of the female Ambassadors who attended.

It is a great picture. But I'd like to point out that there are more gay white male Ambassadors than there are women of color in this picture.

Diplopundit, in a nice piece on the number of female ambassadorspoints out that 31.6%, or 116, of the ambassadors appointed by President Obama have been women. Of that, more than 70% are career appointees (meaning they are FSOs, not political appointees). That number isn't awful considering that the number of women in our senior ranks is somewhere just under 39%.

But the number of women in our senior ranks is an issue in itself. I hope time will sort that out, as women are now the majority (by a slim amount) of those entering the service, but a report I read recently said women are also more likely to leave (and not just "to have families." Perhaps the appearance of lesser upward mobility than their male counterparts plays a role in their looking elsewhere?). So who knows?

And as I have mentioned before, I know of only two out lesbians who have reached the rank of FS 01 in the service, and none have made senior Foreign Service. None.*

And that is a problem no matter how many gay white male ambassadors we have.

*I have heard rumors of some career lesbians in the senior ranks, and perhaps even ambassadors. But if they aren't out, that doesn't help.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Still Pale and Male

Notice anything missing from this picture?

This is the ad for the event that took place this week at the Newseum. It was a gathering of all the openly gay U.S. Ambassadors.

The ad says openly LGBT U.S. Ambassadors, but you might have noticed that is not what is pictured there.

Participating in the panel discussion, which was hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation and GLIFAA (formerly Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and now LGBT+ in Foreign Affairs) were Ambassador to Australia John Berry, Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James Brewster, Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel Baer, Ambassador to Spain James Costos and Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius (the only career ambassador). They are gay men and they are all white. Not even one of the moderators was a lesbian or person of color, to say nothing of transgender. LBT was not present in that picture or on that stage.

None of the stories I have seen on the event (such as this one in the Washington Post and this one in the Washington Blade), which I am the first to admit is a wonderful thing and evidence of how far we have come, mentioned this absence. Which I take as evidence of how far we have to go.

Of course, it was definitely noticed in social media, where I was not the only one to notice that these representatives of the State Department are very pale and male.

And it isn't just the Ambassadors. When the Department recently appointed an LGBT envoy, which to its credit is a career FSO (as is only one of the out gay Ambassadors), it appointed another white man. I was told at the time that there just aren't any lesbians or people of color who rank highly enough to be considered. And that seems to be true. I can find no lesbian or out person of color who has made it to the ranks of Senior Foreign Service.

Of course, rank didn't stop the Department during Secretary Rice's tenure from appointing several men to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) who were only FS 02s in rank (for reference, FS 02 is the Foreign Service equivalent of a Lt. Colonel. Senior Foreign Service is the equivalent of a general. The highest ranking out lesbians that I know of in the Department are FS 01s, or Colonels, higher ranking than those men who were made DASes). And those men did not return to their mid-level positions afterward. In fact, two became Ambassadors, another an Assistant Secretary.

So really, the Department could appoint a career lesbian or out person of color if it really wanted to.

But we don't even need to go there. Because it could be argued, quite rightly, that an officer should have more experience before being named to such high positions.

But what about the political appointees? Five white men. Are you really telling me the Department could not find a single out lesbian or person of color for one of these positions? Anywhere? It stretches the bounds of credibility.

I hope that someone in the Department will take notice the optics of how jarringly white that picture is, and how inappropriate it is given we strive for diversity and for a State Department that looks like America. As one person on Facebook said, this looks like the Supreme Court of the 1960s.

I hope that the Secretary really meant when he said last year during his Pride remarks that " I’m working hard to ensure that by the end of my tenure, we will have lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ambassadors in our ranks as well."

Because you might have noticed the next Presidential race has already started, 

So we don't have much time left.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Greg Delawie Nominated as Ambassador to Kosovo

So we got word yesterday that the White House has nominated Greg Delawie, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Security, Technology and Implementation in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC), to serve as the next Ambassador to Kosovo. He will replace current Ambassador Tracey Ann Jacobson.

I hear GREAT things about Ambassador-designate Delawie. He is a career FSO with tons of experience and according to some friends whose opinion I trust, is a smart, broad thinker with a great sense of humor. Like me, he is part of a tandem, and people LOVE his wife as well.

According to his State Department bio, Ambassador-designate Delawie is "
a senior Foreign Service officer with nearly 30 years of experience and is an expert in national security, diplomacy, and political-military affairs. From 2009 until 2012, when he assumed his duties in the AVC bureau, Mr. Delawie was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, where he served as chief operating officer of one of the United States’ largest missions abroad. Prior to Berlin, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, where he was the State Department’s lead on counter-piracy issues and managed programs regarding humanitarian demining, negotiation of status of forces agreements, and the State-Defense relationship. Mr. Delawie also served abroad as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia, and in various positions in Rome, Ankara, and Frankfurt. In other Washington assignments he worked on bilateral trade issues; human resources policy; aviation security; European regional affairs; and as a Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center."

Ambassador-designate Delawie speaks at least four foreign languages, including German, Italian, Croatian, and Turkish. I hope he will come study a bit of Albanian with us as well.

I am really excited to have the opportunity to work with him when we get to Kosovo this summer. Let's hope for an easy confirmation!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Wither Diversity?

There were a number of articles (here and here for example) out this week about the Department's plans to appoint an LGBT envoy with the task of promoting LGBT rights globally. I am really excited and pleased that the Department is doing this, especially given that the anonymous official quoted in the Washington Blade said, "It’s been long in the making because the secretary insisted the envoy be a career Foreign Service officer from inside the institution, someone who is part of the fabric of the institution, a diplomat by training.”

I hoped against hope that unlike every single openly gay Ambassador, that this person would be a lesbian or a person of color.

But before I could even blog about it, buzzfeed announced that the person selected is likely to be Randy Berry.

Another white man.

Don't get me wrong. I am not anti-white men. My dad is a white man and he is one of my favorite people on the planet. And I count among my closest friends in the Department many many gay white men.

And I am certain Berry is extremely qualified and will be an excellent envoy. I don't know him, but several people whose opinions I trust say he is awesome.

But still.

The Department seems unable to find lesbians or gay people of color to select for these appointments and it is disappointing. To suggest that there are no qualified lesbians or gay people of color stretches credibility.

And let's even say, for argument's sake, that there are none at the most senior levels. I will even grant that the highest ranking lesbian I know in the Department is an 01. I think the highest ranking gay person of color I know is my rank. And I get that this appointment needs to be someone high ranking. Someone from the Senior Foreign Service.

But we seem to be in a vicious cycle here where lesbians and gay people of color are not experienced enough or high ranking enough to be considered for these appointments. So they go to white men, which means they never get experienced enough for these appointments. There has to be a better way than waiting YEARS for the possibility of a lesbian or person of color to make it to those ranks. Especially when you consider that the total number of women and people of color in the Senior Foreign Service is depressingly small and nowhere close to representative of even their percentage in the Department, much less in general society.

I don't know what the answer is. I believe in selecting the most qualified person for the job. But as my wife pointed out this morning, it is much easier to win at king of the mountain when you are already on top. That isn't a level playing field.

I think the Department needs to try harder at leveling it, at least for its own employees. Perhaps deliberately selecting some lesbians and people of color as deputies to these positions would give them the experience, and the exposure, to break through that glass ceiling.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Palmer Case and Women in the Foreign Service

There is an interesting piece on the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training that I have been meaning to share with you on The Palmer Case and the Changing Role of Women in the Foreign Service. It reads, in part:

"There have been a number of prominent women who have served in the State Department over the past century: Francis Willis, the first female career Foreign Service Officer to become ambassador; Clare Booth Luce, a political appointee as Ambassador to Italy; Constance Ray Harvey, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom for her work during World War II, not to mention the number of women who served recently as Secretaries of State. But the road to equal opportunity for women has often been a bumpy one. The unprecedented opportunities for women which opened up during WWII closed just as dramatically after the war as the Foreign Service returned to its previous hiring practices. It was very difficult in the postwar years for women to be hired by and promoted within the Foreign Service. From 1961 to 1971, recruitment of women remained at 7% and the rate of promotion was slow.

Several incidents eventually forced the State Department to enact major changes. Several women in the late 1960s formed the Women’s Action Organization (WAO), which worked closely with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), to push for abolishing the regulation that prevented women who married from entering or remaining in the Foreign Service.

More famous was the Alison Palmer case. Palmer had begun her career in the Foreign Service in 1959 specializing in African affairs. Several ambassadors had objected to her assignment to their embassies in Africa in the late 1960s, and during one assignment, she was expected to act as social secretary to the Ambassador’s wife. She then started an internal grievance procedure through the Department’s Equal Employment Office charging sex discrimination. In 1969 Palmer, then stationed in Vietnam, was notified that the EEO had found in her favor but refused to enter the report in her personnel file. In 1971, she then filed a sex discrimination lawsuit which she won three years later. Her victory resulted in an order from management barring all discrimination in assignments. In 1972, the State Department overturned its ban on the marriage of female diplomats. It also took steps to improve inequities in housing allowances and in the recruitment process, and issued the Declaration on Spouses, which removed wives from their husbands’ performance evaluations.

In 1976 after numerous attempts at getting higher ranking positions as a Foreign Service Officer, Palmer then filed a class action lawsuit against the State Department for discrimination in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After several years of litigation, a 1989 court order found that the Department had discriminated against women in the written portion of the Foreign Service Officer Test. The State Department was then restricted in administering written exams that had adverse impacts on women. In 2010, Palmer (at left) decided to terminate the lawsuit as all parties agreed that the State Department had finally demonstrated compliance of the court orders by making reparations to women who were affected and modifying hiring systems."

 I have blogged previously about Palmer and this issue here. You can read the whole ADST piece here.