Secretary Clinton on integrating LGBT rights

Secretary Clinton gave a very heartful and eloquent speech on the integration of LGBT* rights with US foreign policy earlier this week at an event celebrating Pride Month.  I just adore this woman. The transcript is at the link.  [*I prefer the term "queer" for political reasons, probably as a result of too many women's studies classes at Smith ;) ]

Referencing her famous quote from Beijing 15 years ago about women’s rights being human rights, Secretary Clinton said, "Let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.”

LA pride

I flew down to LA last weekend to visit some friends and celebrate LA Pride. I had a great time catching up with one of my best friends from high school, one of my best friends from college, and one of my best friends from law school... pretty perfect weekend. 

Our condo is officially on the market

...and it has its own website!

Our first open house was last Sunday and our agent said about 40 people came by. We are going to lose quite a bit of money, as we purchased our home at the height of the market in 2006. Our neighborhood is also quickly gentrifying and property values are sure to recover as soon as the economy improves. Nonetheless, we're pushing forward and tying up all our loose ends (including selling our home!) to prepare for the Foreign Service. Hopefully this is not a huge gamble and my security clearance comes soon.

Some pics of our beautiful Inner Mission condo, which we'll miss dearly:

gym queen drama

I've been meeting with my friend Corey a couple times a week to lift weights for several months. It used to be so perfect when he lived at our house while dating our roommate, we could just jaunt the few blocks away to the gym. Now that they moved out I meet him at the gym close to his house since he doesn't drive. The new gym is actually much nicer; it's the parking garage company that beckons my ire.

Per my estimate, we have problems getting out of the garage at least 50% of the time. Either the machine that takes cash won't work, it may charge the unvalidated price, the arm might not lift to let you out, or like today, the machine might just eat your card. Since the garage is only run by automatons, when you have a problem you must call the humans either by pushing a button on the machine or by calling the number on your card (which you might not have since the machine is apparently starving). Today, like most days, no one answered the distress call. The difference was that I wasn't alone and had two other cars that couldn't get out either. We hemmed and hawed over how to get out for 15 minutes or so: push the arm up? big fine for breaking arms. pull a ticket and get the entrance arm to come up? must have car weight on platform. crash through the arm? bad, bad, bad.

Finally, the guy in the smallest car was fed up enough and managed to squeeze most of his auto body under the arm, pressed forward and voila! it lifted. He then backed his car onto the entrance platform and pulled a ticket so I could exit there. I quickly sped through then did the same for the lady behind me (I shouldn't mention that other cars that had filed into line behind but as they were not part of our battle, we left them). We left victorious, flipped the machines the bird, and gloated all the way home about how we beat the robots once again.

Obama extends benefits to same-sex spouses & partners of federal employees

Good news for civil rights today. President Obama just signed an executive memorandum directing all federal agencies to extend fringe benefits to gay and lesbian employees, to the extent permitted by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA continues to constrict federal action granting FSOs in same-sex partnerships and marriages from enjoying certain benefits, such as health insurance and pension benefits.

Here's the statement from the White House.

"Last year, I issued a Presidential Memorandum that instructed the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State to extend certain available benefits they had identified to gay & lesbian federal employees and their families under their respective jurisdictions. Among those benefits were long-term care insurance and expanded sick leave for civil service employees and medical care abroad, eligibility for employment at posts, cost-of-living adjustments abroad and medical evacuation for domestic partners of foreign service members.

"In that same Memorandum, I called upon the federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review and to identify any additional benefits that could be extended to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees under existing law.

"That process has now concluded, and I am proud to announce that earlier today, I signed a Memorandum that requires Executive agencies to take immediate action to extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees a number of meaningful benefits, from family assistance services to hardship transfers to relocation expenses. It also requires agencies that extend any new benefits to employees' opposite-sex spouses to make those benefits available on equal terms to employees' same-sex domestic partners to the extent permitted by law.

"While this Memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my Administration continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That is why, today, I renew my call for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress -- the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. This legislation, championed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees' opposite-sex spouses. I look forward to signing it into law."

Obama extended specified benefits to domestic partners of FSOs last year, but this effectively means that same-sex coupled FSOs will receive at least one additional benefit. The President finalized a regulation that makes same-sex partners eligible for long-term care insurance.


During all the craziness of trying to get our place painted, staged, boxed up, packed away, and cleaned, I have been the fore(wo)man. This means that sometimes I have to try and communicate with folks that don't speak any English, and sometimes, like yesterday, they speak only broken Mandarin since Cantonese is their first language.

Yesterday I was woken up at 730 by our painter who wanted the lo-down on what was all left to paint at the house. I walked him through the house in my shorts and tank top and told him in my very limited Mandarin what needed to be painted and with what color. He talked a lot. He said words that I've never heard before. They he made gestures that looked like driving a car and asked me to follow him into the hallway to the elevator. I didn't have any shoes on but thought that maybe he just wanted to make sure that I had a car so that I could get the rest of the paint we needed. Instead, he led me out to the street in my bare feet to his car and gestured for me to get in. Huh? I pointed to my feet and said in Mandarin, "I am not wearing any shoes!" Later, I realized what I actually said in Mandarin was, "I don't have any SHRIMP!" He became very confused. Then he pointed at the meter and said more things that I didn't understand. What?? Oh! You need coins! No problem - I'll get them for you. I ran inside to get some more clothes and shoes on and grab the coins.

He again gestured for me to get into the car, only this time he wanted me to drive! I brought a mini bottle of paint and asked if he wanted me to take him to get more paint. Yes. Ahhhh ok, now I am getting somewhere! I begin driving us to the paint store (good thing I can drive a stick shift) and after a few blocks he begins to yell confused things at me. I say that I'm turning up here in a block. This calms him for a second until I speed up on the next road. I told him I have 10 more blocks to go and then he gets really upset and makes me pull over and hands me his phone. I call the only person I can think of: my father in law. Turns out he just wanted me to park his car in a place that isn't metered. I drove us to the garage and we giggled all the way back to the house. Thank goodness for the Chinese sense of humor.