The Foreign Service Journal, May 2013

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2013 33 colleagues are surprised that any issues still remain for LGBT employees and our families. “I thought they fixed all of that” is a common reaction. The Defense of Marriage Act Don’t get me wrong: The changes at State and other foreign affairs agencies have been hugely beneficial, 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 benefits out of reach: health care coverage, pension/inheritance benefits 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 significant legal benefits reside. The 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 So until the law is either repealed (extremely unlikely, given the fact that the current Republican-majority House of Representatives is actively defending it) or struck down as unconstitutional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 benefits. I cannot even petition to have Daniel live in the United States with me. Coping with DOMA So, no, we have most certainly not “fixed all of that.” But I will be eternally grateful to Sec. Clinton for the very real ben- efits her policy changes have afforded my family, and those of all LGBT officers. On the immigration front, GLIFAA partnered with the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to develop helpful, though still limited, relief. Specifically, in 2011 CA announced the creation of a special exchange visa (J) program for non-U.S. citizen partners of For- eign Service officers, 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. Michael Gross