Sunday, February 8, 2009

When "Making HIstory" Does Clinton In

I am a big fan of Hillary Clinton. Why you ask? I read her autobiography, Making History, from cover to cover. I read with bated breath the part about her parents' neighbors in Arkansas--a gay couple, a doctor and a nurse--who befriended her parents. This was more than a neighborly friendship. The gay couple came to her parents' aid in the worst of times whilst they daughter was thousands of miles away in Washington, DC battling a "right-wing conspiracy." That grace can enter one's life in the darkest moments is always a turning point. And so it was for Clinton; she credits this expression of unqualified love for her steadfast support of gay rights.

Well, fast forward to many years later on, now to be precise. Just a few days ago, Washington GLBT friendly politicians, including openly out Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, have begun lobbying Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, to reverse the longstanding discriminatory policy toward US State Department employees' same-sex partners.

Also, at the department level, diplomats and officials have begun making the same kind of noise. Read this comment from a gay diplomat made during a "town meeting" with other officials:

Ralan Hill, a gay diplomat, called the policy “active discrimination against me and my family.”
“As one example, if I were assigned overseas to a post that came under a mandatory evacuation order, I would be required to leave, although the Department is under no legal obligation to do anything to help my partner. He could be left literally to fend for himself in a war zone,” Hill told Clinton (comment excerpted from this article).

Clinton responded in this manner:

She agrees that this was a “real concern” of “workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide.”

“So I have asked for a staff review of current policies, especially those that are set forth in State Department regulations and recommendations, and a strategy for making effective changes,” Clinton said.

But then Clinton threw this zinger. It is one of those that reminds you how complicated the legacy of the Clintons is.

Clinton reminded the audience that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) tied her hands since hat legislation defined marriage as a heterosexual union as applied to federal employees and partners.

And of course, DOMA was signed into law by none other than her husband--President Clinton. It's more than awkward; it's downright embarrassing. How will Clinton extricate herself from this tangled web of past ties?

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