The Pentagon initially denied Representative Tammy Baldwin's request to bring her domestic partner with her on a fact-finding trip to Europe over the Easter recess. As usual, the delegation traveled on a military flight. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi petitioned Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, before the trip was approved.
At the center of the story is the definition of "spouse." According to the House guidelines, members of Congress can travel with spouses so long as there is room, and protocol requires it. The same goes for an adult child; however, Congress must be reimbursed for the second guest. Baldwin and her partner have exchanged vows, but her home state of Wisconsin does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Apparently Secretary Gates told Speaker Pelosi that it was up to her to make an exception. To see what happened,
Once Gates received a formal request for an exception, he approved the flight. Pelosi insisted that she was simply following the precedent set by her predecessor Dennis Hassert. But, Hassert's former aides said he was unaware that Baldwin's domestic partner flew with her, until the trips already were underway.
While we can all argue about tax money being used to transport guests, it does seem unfair to make a gay congresswoman jump through extra hoops, involving the Speaker of the House and the Secretary of Defense, for a routine trip. Perhaps spouses shouldn't be allowed on these vacations, uh, I mean fact-finding trips. But since they are, should unrecognized spouses be allowed, too?