and in some cases it's the salary. I had a
Also, it is worth noting that the bulk of the employees at this and other civilian govt installations are contractors. The actual government employees were usually managers or interns. When the contracts for the facility were awarded to a different company, the workers were let go by the old contractor and then hired by the new contractor. Same job, usually the same pay, just a different company name on the check and different benefits package. Usually only the main contractor management changed. It wasn't hard to find someone who had worked at the place 15+ years who also had been employed by 3-4 different contractors over that time span.
The attitude towards work can be different too. Ever hear the phrase "it's good enough for Government work"? A good friend and mentor at the facility had once mentioned to me: "We both grew up on farms, so we know that this is a slack job....any office job with A/C is when you think about it...but we work our asses off compared to those in Reston". I would not be out of the ordinary for me to work late into the night or on weekends to find bugs, experiment with new things, wrap of projects, etc.....the sort of things that most software developers do, especially if they're not married. I would have gotten in trouble if I did that at the offices in VA.
The dress code wasn't too bad really. It was just the "business casual" standard that lots of places. The only times I remember having to wear a tie was when the bigwigs and/or some Congress-critters from DC was going to visit or when on travel. However, that was a stark difference between what passed as "ok" in Silicon Valley. In 1990 or so, another guy and I had to visit Pixar's offices in San Rafael to discuss some software of theirs that we were using. The lead engineer was to meet us at the office and we stood around in the parking lot for a while waiting for him (the building lobby wasn't open yet). We saw what appeared to be a homeless guy walking around in the parking lot in a daze. He stopped, looked at us, and asked who we were waiting for. We said the engineer's name and he replied..."oh, that's me...come on inside". There was only one or two developers per office and they had beaded curtains for doorways. Very different than our 70's era govt office decor.
Marriage is irrespective of religion. You can have marriages that never come into contact with any religion. Marriages are fucking contracts. Contract law is certainly part of Federal law.
But the reason that people get so worked up over it is due to it traditionally being a religious ceremony & institution. Make the government only recognize civil unions which is what it is completely free to define and be done with it (which is what México does). I'm surprised this sort of thing where you have secular govt benefits tied to a religious ceremony hasn't resulted in a "separation of church & state" lawsuit.