This blog entry was supposed to be about trips I have taken in the U.K., but I decided to push it back in honor of Secretary Kerry’s visit to London.
I was extremely fortunate and privileged last week as I got to sit and listen to Secretary Kerry announce that the U.S. will now treat same-sex spouses applying for a visa in the same manner as the application of opposite-sex spouses.
It was a surreal moment Friday as we all sat in the visa section of the Embassy, waiting for the Secretary to arrive. The Embassy had eagerly been awaiting his arrival for the past week, working feverously to prepare everything. I happily sat in the back row of the room, glad to just be there to hear this historic speech. Then suddenly the other interns and I were told to fill in the seats in the front row reserved for his staff (apparently they did not need all the seats reserved). I gladly hopped up to the front, less than 10 feet away from the podium. Then suddenly the Secretary walked in and greeted everyone. It was a strange and incredible experience to see Secretary Kerry in real life after growing up watching him on television and in the media.
Me watching the speech (fourth from the middle)
He began to speak and thank us all for being there and for the work we all do. Then he began by illustrating that, “One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people…[and] we are still struggling to make equal the rights between men and women and to break the glass ceiling and to make sure that all people are created equal. That is what we try to do…wearing our heart on our sleeve, and sometimes our warts, more than almost any other nation on the face of the planet. We believe in working to do better and to live up to these higher values and we try to do it in a lot of different ways.”
Finally he announced that “when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses.” This rule means that, “If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.”
“The State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government … is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States.”
He ended the speech by remarking that he sits “on the 7th floor of the State Department looking out straight at the Lincoln Memorial. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous march on Washington and of Martin Luther King’s unbelievably eloquent and historic plea for equality. So that is where the dream was declared, the march goes on, this is several more steps in that march.”
We appalled the Secretary’s words, and then before I realized it he came to the front row where I was sitting and began shaking my fellow interns’ hands, including mine. I have to say, I don’t think I have ever been so red in my life. I was in shock that I actually got to shake his hand. Needless to say, it was a great day in the office. I feel blessed and lucky to witness this moment in history. It made all of my hard work (without pay!) worth it, because it is events like this make me proud to work for the American government.
For the full text and video see:http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/08/212643.htm#.UfvgDYv7r5Y.facebook