GLIFAA was formed in 1992 in order to challenge a security clearance process that at the time discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees. We have since grown to include hundreds of members and associates and become the officially recognized voice of LGBT personnel in U.S. foreign affairs agencies. Our Open Letter to Secretary Clinton at the beginning of her tenure included over 2,200 signatures from GLIFAA members and our allies.
We are non-profit and rely entirely on the efforts and contributions of our members and associates in Washington, DC, and around the world. Our membership is primarily comprised of personnel and their family members from the Department of State, USAID, the Foreign Commercial Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and other U.S. offices and agencies with foreign affairs components.
GLIFAA works to secure full parity for LGBT personnel and their families in U.S. foreign affairs agencies serving in the United States and overseas. We seek to break down the continued barriers that LGBT foreign service, civil service, and contract employees — and their partners and children — encounter as a result of prejudice, misunderstanding, and apathy within our institutions. We serve as a support network and resource of information for LGBT employees and their families.
Members of the GLIFAA Board meet regularly with the management of the State Department, USAID, and other agencies to discuss ideas and solutions to address the continued concerns of LGBT personnel and their families. GLIFAA also works closely with AFSA (the American Foreign Service Association) and the Offices of Equal Employment Opportunity to provide information about employee concerns. We also support broader efforts in the U.S. and around the world to bring about greater respect for the rights of sexual minorities.
We sponsor educational and outreach activities, with a variety of events for LGBT Pride in June and numerous other occasions. We organize educational panels and presentations on issues of concern to employees; manage a website; and provide information to employees, prospective employees, and management to help promote a workplace grounded on the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination.
We have a network of post representatives that help to address the needs of our members and allies abroad. This network of representatives plans outreach activities, serves as a resource to fellow employees, and keeps the membership in Washington apprised of what is happening around the world.
GLIFAA is non-partisan and does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, gender, disability, ethnic background, religion, gender identity, or HIV-status. We have a diverse membership, including both LGBT and straight members, and welcome the participation of all who seek to end continued inequality based on sexual orientation.
We seek to help employees stay abreast of current developments, keep in touch, and share information with one another. GLIFAA’s website, social events (regular monthly meeting and happy hour), and support for members overseas are just a few ways that members and their families stay connected. See our Events page to find out about upcoming events.
We are proud of the many accomplishments of our organization since our founding in 1992. The issuance of a non-discriminatory policy by then Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1994 was one of our early successes. We also worked with the U.S. Administration, the management of our agencies, and other employee associations to eliminate barriers for obtaining security clearances and create and implement non-discrimination policies with regard to entry and employment.
GLIFAA played an instrumental role working with the administration of the Department of State in developing and implementing rights and privileges for same-sex partners of Department employees overseas. In the summer of 2009, the Department of State granted Eligible Family Member (EFM) status to domestic partners of Department employees and to their children. This change was followed by a number of other agencies which send employees overseas. Details can be found on our Domestic Partner Benefits Page.
Previously, we worked to implement the “Member of Household” (MOH) guidance, which explains the no-cost accomodations available to members of an employee’s household, including partners, while serving overseas, and instructs U.S. missions overseas to take steps to assist members of household. These accommodations, still available to household members who are not recognized as domestic partners, were the primary benefits available to the partners of LGBT employees overseas before the 2009 EFM guidance. In December 2000, State 242724 was transmitted, explaining to Posts these accomodations. In December 2003, MOH provisions were included in the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), the Department of State’s “Bible” containing the regulations, policies, and procedures for the Department’s operations. New guidance providing for EFM status for domestic partners was added to the FAM in the summer of 2009.
Thanks in part to the work of GLIFAA, the ability of LGBT personnel to serve openly and successfully in U.S. foreign affairs agencies is now greater than ever.
Many challenges remain. Our current priorities include:
- Ensuring full and fair adherence in our agencies to current policies concerning LGBT employees and their families, including the Executive Order (E.O. 13087) uniformly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Federal Government;
- Promoting a professional atmosphere in our agencies whereby LGBT personnel at all levels can be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity without concern or fear of repercussions;
- Increasing opportunities for same-sex partners accompanying personnel on assignment overseas and ensuring their full inclusion in community life at US missions;
- Securing access for the partners and children of LGBT employees to affordable and adequate health insurance as well as to other basic accommodations and benefits;
- Obtaining the right for LGBT employees to bring foreign-national partners back to the United States during domestic assignments or after employment;
- Raising awareness within our agencies and the public at large of the important contributions LGBT personnel have made and continue to make to our country in the Foreign Service, Civil Service, and as Contractors;
- Ending discrimination based on HIV-status, including with regard to the hiring practices of our agencies;
- Contributing to the broader cause of tolerance, equality, and full civil rights for sexual minorities in the U.S. and elsewhere;
- Strengthening our organization through effective outreach efforts, including to incoming personnel, other employee and foreign affairs associations, the management of our agencies, LGBT groups in other federal agencies, and relevant non-governmental organizations.