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
“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
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
“[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.”