Rep. Berman confident Obama administration will give domestic partner benefits to diplomats

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)


On Wednesday the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the State Department Reauthorization bill, which contained several provisions advancing abortion and homosexual political priorities. After receiving assurances from the Obama Administration that it would change the current policies, Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) removed his provision granting domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples.

The State Dept. Reauthorization bill, H.R. 2410, would have established same-sex domestic partnership benefits, funded by taxpayers, for Foreign Service Officers and Peace Corps volunteers.

The bill would have mandated that the Secretary of State work through government employees at U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to encourage foreign governments to reform or repeal laws that criminalize “homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct” or restrict “the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, consistent with U.S. law, by homosexual individuals or organizations.”

H.R. 2410 would also have required the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to track violence or restrictions based on “perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.” According to Smith, the terms are undefined in the bill. The American Psychological Association has broadly defined the terms to include exhibitionism, prostitution and pedophilia.

Additionally, the bill would have required the annual human rights report to include information about violence or discrimination based on “perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Rep. Berman spoke on Wednesday about removing his provision granting partner benefits to homosexual diplomats.

“I am deeply committed to ending the long-standing practice of treating the committed partners of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers like second-class citizens,” Berman said. “I would not agree to strike a provision in my own bill if I did not feel confident that this would be taken care of by the Administration.”

A separate measure in H.R. 2410 establishes an Office for Global Women’s Issues, which critics suspect might be used to promote the legalization of abortion abroad.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member, sought to strike the original language authorizing the Office of Global Women’s Issues and identify positive means to help women with regard to education, job training, health care and equal pay for equal work.  His amendment also specifically added a clarifying statement of policy intended to prevent the office from being used to lobby for the legalization of abortion in pro-life nations.

Chairman Berman opposed the Smith amendment and it was blocked on a party line vote. Thus the original authorization for an Office of Global Women’s Issues without any pro-life clarifying language remains in the bill that will likely go to the full House of Representatives for consideration in the coming weeks.

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