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Clinton to lift limits on benefits for gay diplomats

The regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges of straight diplomats are 'unfair and must end,' the secretary of State says.

May 24, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that gay American diplomats will be given benefits similar to those of their heterosexual counterparts, U.S. officials said Saturday.

In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton said regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges of straight diplomats were "unfair and must end," because they harm U.S. diplomacy.

"Providing training, medical care and other benefits to domestic partners promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad," she said in the message, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press.

"It will also help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers," she said.

Among the benefits that will be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.

In addition, gay diplomats' families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, according to the message.

Previously, the State Department had withheld some benefits from the families of gay diplomats, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which had restricted federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

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