Bruce Knotts is a former Foreign Service Officer and the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, March 31, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Equal Benefits for Equal Work. That was the motto of GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) when I served on their Board of Directors. For 25 years, I served my country as a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State in American embassies and consulates general in places like Athens, Lusaka, Calcutta, Lahore, Karachi, Khartoum, Nairobi, Abidjan and Banjul.
I’m married to Isaac Humphrie. We were married in Canada and our marriage is recognized by the State of New York. However, our marriage is not recognized by the Federal Government because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).
What does that mean to us? My heterosexual colleagues enjoy benefits for themselves, their spouses and children. These health and pension benefits are worth thousands of dollars every year. Despite having done as much or more work than my colleagues and faced as much or more danger in the line of duty, my spouse has no access to my benefits. That means that Isaac has no health benefits and no access to my pension benefits.
It’s time to end institutionalized discrimination based on sexual orientation in this country. Tell Congress it is time to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act” and restore the rights of lawfully married same-sex couples to receive the protections of marriage under federal law.
In Nairobi, I survived the terrorist bombing of our embassy in 1998 and earned two awards for heroism, superior honor and meritorious honor, which are among the highest awards that can be given to an American diplomat. While in Abidjan, I learned that there were reports that the Liberian President had sent an assassin with orders to assassinate me. It seems that Charles Taylor believed that I was sending Liberian refugees to the United States (I sent over 7,000 to safety in the United States). Charles Taylor, believed that these Liberian refugees (mostly women and children) would be trained to kill him, so he wanted me dead. I served my country with distinction and honor. In 2007, I retired from the Department of State and took my current position at the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office in New York City.
While the families of my colleagues enjoy benefits worth thousands, my 25 years of work facing life-threatening danger earns me not a penny in benefits for my family. To add insult to injury, in the State Department, pets (dogs and cats) receive travel benefits up to $1,000 per trip, while same-sex partners receive nothing. We are treated with less value than a dog. It is past time that those who have served this country with courage, and all Americans, receive equal benefits for equal work.
Can you join me to stand on the side of love and help our country move towards a place of inclusion for all families, and respect for all love?
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office