The following was submitted as a letter to the editor.
Re: “Will Obama name LGBT appointees in Cabinet shakeup?” (news, Nov. 14)
In December 2012, I retired from the federal government after 22 years. I was not only able to utilize my professional and educational expertise but also comfortable with peers and colleagues about being a proud out lesbian in a relationship than spanned more than 28 years and the constant changing of presidential appointees.
Those personnel changes often affected the potential opportunity for or against the inclusion of programmatic efforts to gather the data, qualitative and quantitative, in identifying health disparities associated with LGBT populations and different segments comprising the diversity of the disparate but linked communities. The bureaucratic changes necessitated the advocacy groups to re-cast their message often duplicating previous efforts while making the proper name and date changes.
Readers are probably wondering: “What does this commentary have to do with President Obama’s selection of LGBT individuals as possible Cabinet leaders, etc.?”
Federal government employees, regardless of the length of our same-sex relationships or even the façade of “marriage” in those states where that right was available, albeit it temporary, have few civil rights relative to our married colleagues, wherever the setting of that marriage.
I personally do not want John Berry to leave his current position as director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whose mission is recruiting, retaining and honoring a world-class force to serve the American people. If you look at OPM’s web site (opm.gov), you prominently see Same-Sex Domestic Partner Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). On June 8, 2010, my partner and I signed the “federal” form entitled “Declaration of Domestic Partnership.” Each federal agency supposedly offered all employees the opportunity to complete this form, which would be placed in the respective employees’ personnel file. But you know something isn’t exactly right when the form has no bureaucratic number assigned.
Three months after I retired, on March 3, 2012, my life partner, Ruth Boynton, an almost 24-year veteran of the United States Postal Service (USPS) died at age 54 of aortic dissection, Type III. Luckily, a few of the government benefits, most notably the Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) and the Thrift Savings Plan, acknowledged me as the beneficiary. Not surprisingly, the USPS did not have a process for declaring domestic partnership and also claimed to have never received forms from my partner identifying me as her beneficiary, a fact that few who know us find plausible.
And, of course, the pièce de résistance was the $70,000+ county inheritance tax that was sent to me, as the estate administrator, less than six months after her death. Even the conservative members of my family were appalled and used that knowledge to vote for Question 6 in Maryland and help win the approval of “same-sex couples to wed” and have the other rights associated with straight couples.
So, I want Berry to stay and finish the job that he has started and accomplish the mission of OPM in having the best and brightest workforce regardless of any demography. —DR. NANCY J. KENNEDY