Passport change will be inclusive

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By Matthew Lee
Sunday, January 9, 2011

In a bid to forestall a backlash from congressional conservatives, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered the State Department to amend a bureaucratic change that would have eliminated the titles "mother" and "father" in favor of the gender-neutral term "parent" in passport applications and other documents.

The State Department said Saturday that Clinton had instructed the department to retain "mother" and "father" in passport applications as well as in a form known as a "Consular Report of Birth Abroad" that U.S. embassies use to document the birth of a child to expatriate Americans. It said the forms will now ask for the names of the child's "mother or parent 1" and "father or parent 2."

Gay and lesbian groups had applauded the initial change, which was announced with little fanfare in late December. But conservative groups criticized it as an attack on traditional marriage and family values.

Clinton has been a forceful advocate for gay rights and in 2009 moved to give gay diplomats, their partners and families the same benefits that heterosexual diplomats and their families receive. That step at the State Department preceded a similar government-wide move announced by the White House.

However, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday that Clinton had not been aware that the terms "mother" and "father" would be stricken from the consular birth reports and passport applications when she signed off on broader changes to the documents last year.

"She has directed that the relevant forms retain to the existing references to 'mother' and 'father' in addition to the designation 'parent,' " Crowley said. He said her decision would ensure that the documents are as inclusive and informative as possible.

- Associated Press


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