The U.S. State Department is preparing to provide equal benefits for gay and lesbian American diplomats, according to a leaked notice to employees being prepared by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The New York Times reported.

“Historically, domestic partners of Foreign Service members have not been provided the same training, benefits, allowances and protections that other family members receive,” the notice says. “These inequities are unfair and must end.”

A copy of the notice was provided to the media by a member of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), a group that represents gay employees working in various government agencies. The group was founded in 1992 by Michael Guest, a former U.S. diplomat.

Two unidentified State Department officials independently confirmed the authenticity of the note.

Under current State Department rules, gay spouses are classified as “members of household,” and are not covered by their partner's health insurance, lack access to government medical facilities abroad, and are not eligible to participate in emergency evacuations or advanced training.

Last week, Representative Howard Berman, a Democrat from California who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believed the State Department would move to provide equal benefits for partners of gay diplomats serving abroad.

“[I]t is my expectation, based on very recent conversations, that the Secretary of State will move forward with implementing all of the benefits provided in that provision in the very near future,” Berman said during a House hearing, referring to legislation that would have required the State Department to offer such benefits.

Openly lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, called on Clinton to make the necessary changes in a letter dated February 2.

Baldwin said that she had made similar requests to Clinton's predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, but little had come of the effort.

State Department officials had rejected offering such benefits in the past, citing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that forbids any federal agency from recognizing legal gay marriage.

The note says the policy changes will help attract and retain talented personnel and “it is the right thing to do.”