State Department revises its gender-neutral passport wording

A weekend dust-up pitting gay rights advocates against cultural conservatives prompted the State Department on Monday to recast a newly redesigned passport application form.

On Dec. 22, 2010, State's Bureau of Consular Affairs published what it assumed to be a routine announcement of a new forgery-resistant version of its Consular Report of Birth Abroad form, which verifies that a child born to American parents overseas is a U.S. citizen.

But an unobtrusive final paragraph of the announcement mentioned that the wording of applications -- for both the birth abroad form and the DS 11 form used by anyone applying for a U.S. passport -- would henceforth use the word "parent" instead of "mother" or "father."

"These improvements are being made to provide a gender-neutral description of a child's parents and in recognition of different types of families," the announcement said.

Gay rights groups applauded the change as a step away from discrimination against same-sex parents with U.S. citizenship who bear children abroad.

But the conservative Family Research Council blasted the move as a violation of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and called on Congress to overturn the change.

After news reports on the move appeared on Jan. 8, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened and altered the final wording to read "mother or parent 1" and "father or parent 2."

An official in the Bureau of Consular Affairs told Government Executive: "Secretary Clinton was aware of the importance of the change but not aware of the nitty-gritty details. Once she was made aware, she decided to revise the wording."

During Saturday's daily briefing, State officials said Clinton's thinking was related to a desire to avoid a fight with newly empowered Republican House members who might be considering cuts in spending on the department's foreign operations.

Paul Guequierre, deputy press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington lesbian and gay rights advocacy group, said on Monday: "We applaud Secretary Clinton's modification of new State Department rules. . . . This change is an important step forward in recognizing that there is a range of family structures in our country, including families headed by same-sex couples."

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said: "We are certainly happy that the State Department recognizes the existence of motherhood and fatherhood. But they continue to try and promote a redefinition of marriage and the family, which is still a concern for us."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.