Equal benefits granted to gay U.S. diplomats

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

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 that other diplomats enjoyed were "unfair and must end," as they harmed 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.

"At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners," Clinton said, "because it is the right thing to do."

Among the benefits that will now 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 be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute.

The announcement, expected this week, was provided to the AP by a State Department official who is a member of the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies organization. Two department officials not affiliated with the organization confirmed its accuracy.