The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 45 view, was that the embassy did not notify U.S. citizens outside the embassy community. “I was concerned that the embassy’s confidence in its response would prevent us from learning the necessary lessons,” said Douglas, who advocated for improvements in the embassy’s emergency response time and improvements to the way it communicated during emergencies. He also insisted that “people should know they may need to drive themselves to the hospital in an emergency.” Douglas was counseled for being “disruptive” and “disrespectful,” and while the embassy ultimately made many of the changes he had pushed for, including making improvements to training and procedures, he felt he had no choice but to curtail from post due to an untenable work environment. Douglas recently started a new tour as a deputy course coordinator for the orientation course for new Foreign Service professionals at the Foreign Service Institute. He has previously served overseas in Rio de Janeiro and Abu Dhabi. In Washington, D.C., he has served as assistant summit coordinator in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, program officer for Haiti in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and Morocco desk officer. Prior to joining the Foreign Service as an economic officer, he worked as a community economic development volunteer for the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. Alex Douglas grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, and holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in economics and Hispanic studies. He is married with an almost 4-year-old daughter. W. Averell Harriman Award for Constructive Dissent by an EntryLevel Foreign Service Officer Christophe Triplett Fighting for Equal Rights for Locally Employed LGBTQ+ Staff The vast majority of the State Department’s 50,000+ locally employed (LE) staff worldwide work in restrictive environments for LGBTQ+ persons. Of the 195 countries with which the United States has diplomatic relations, same-sex couples can lawfully marry in just 33. This has meant that the average local employee in a same-sex relationship was excluded from key benefits of the local compensation plan, such as health insurance coverage, death and funeral benefits, and education allowances for their family. Unlike their colleagues, they lived without the assurance that they could support their loved ones through difficult times. As a first-tour officer, Christophe Triplett took on the procurement portfolio during his second year in Amman. He recognized the inequalities that existed were wrong, and he knew he had to take action to help change the situation. But how? Before asking a somewhat reluctant bureaucracy in Washington to address the issue, Triplett had to prove a change was possible. He started by meeting with members of his own team, who initially had serious doubts. He articulated his case, convincing them of its merits. “When I first proposed the idea of providing more inclusive health care coverage to the LE procurement team member responsible for major contracts, he explained all the reasons why it wouldn’t work,” said Triplett. “But I advocated for diversity and inclusion, explaining that it aligned with our American values and that we had to at least try to make a difference.” Once the key team member was on board, he and Triplett engaged with the local health insurance provider, persuading them to extend health coverage to same-sex partners of LE staff members in Amman, despite conflicting cultural norms. Triplett then worked with the local legal counsel and the department’s contracting office to secure their support for this expanded coverage. However, the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) did not let Embassy Amman finalize its solicitation to renew the health insurance contract. GTM insisted that its new standardized and more restrictive language, which prohibited extending coverage to any same-sex partner unless Jordanian law recognized the relationship, be used. This setback triggered a four-month period of sustained advocacy. Triplett raised his concerns to embassy leadership, who provided support. He also engaged in numerous late-night phone calls to Washington, D.C., with board members of glifaa, the organization that represents LGBTQ+ employees in the foreign affairs agencies, and the Secretary’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. These organizations advocated for this issue with GTM and department leaders in Washington. Yet, at each step, officials reiterated that Triplett could not deviate from the global standard. Christophe Triplett. Never underestimate your potential to be the catalyst for meaningful change. —Christophe Triplett