Representative bureaucracy: Gay community efforts to change the definition of family
In the last few decades, homosexuals have "come out" and formed families of their own which differ from "traditional" families. The American bureaucracy has played an integral part in the development of a gay identity in gay people's search for family. With their discretionary powers, bureaucratic agencies have contributed to the ways in which homosexuals have defined themselves, and have been a significant factor in determining the manner in which gay people have organized politically. Representative bureaucracy is a term which simultaneously suggests that while bureaucracy has not always matched democratic ideals, it can, nevertheless, be restructured to fit with those ideals. Through the choice of personnel, organization, accountability controls, and creation of systematic opportunities for public input, Krislov and Rosenbloom have suggested that representative bureaucracy is possible, and desirable.1. Aided by representative bureaucratic tools, the gay community has attempted to influence public policy. In particular, the gay community actively attempted to change the definition of "family" in a federal regulation. In addition to spouse, children, and parents, the proposed rule provided for "any individual related by blood or affinity whose relation to the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship" to qualify as a family member. The material effect was to allow gay federal employees to use sick leave to care for seriously ill life-partners and their children. The question this research sought to answer was whether the Krislov-Rosenbloom model of representative bureaucracy could explain the decision-making process within the federal bureaucracy as it related to the redefinition of "family" in a federal regulation. While Congress ultimately decided the definition of "family" by legislation, this case study illuminated, by analyzing documents and conducting interviews, how the gay community was able to access the bureaucratic decision-making apparatus and attempt to influence it in a way that was impossible a quarter century ago. 1Krislov, Samuel, and David H. Rosenbloom. Representative Bureaucracy and the American Political System. Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT. 1981.