WASHINGTON, DC—A bipartisan group of 125 Members of Congress today called on Secretary of State John Kerry to support equal treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their spouses. Leading the effort were Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Appropriations; and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
Recent reports suggest that some governments refuse to accredit same-sex spouses of American FSOs, effectively preventing these diplomats from doing their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation.
“As you know, the United States Supreme Court recently held that the Constitution protects the right of same sex couples to marry. As the United States continues to make progress toward equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, many countries around the world have yet to address their own discriminatory practices. As such, we are writing to express our concerns about recent reports that American LGBT Foreign Service Officers (FSO)s are sometimes denied an equal opportunity to represent the United States abroad because certain foreign governments refuse to recognize their same-sex marriages. As Members of Congress, we believe that when same-sex couples working for the State Department receive equal treatment at home and abroad, our diplomatic corps truly reflects the American ideals of openness, equality, and human rights,” the Members wrote in the letter.
“The Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor affirmed that commitment, stating that the federal government has a Constitutional obligation to treat all spouses equally regardless of sexual orientation. The June 26 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, further demonstrated the Court’s commitment to marriage equality. While we understand the challenge in dealing with foreign governments that discriminate, we call on the State Department to send a forceful message that all American families must be treated equally,” the Members continued.
The full letter with a list of signers can be found here.