Secretary of State Clinton promises benefits

Posted on 20 May 2009 at 8:32pm

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to provide equal benefits to partners of gays and lesbians in the U.S. diplomatic corps stationed overseas, according to Congressman Howard Berman, D-Calif.

Berman, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday during a hearing on funding for the Foreign Services that he would be dropping his legislative efforts to force the State Department to offer benefits because “it 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’s guest at the hearing was Michael Guest, gay former U.S. ambassador to Romania who left the Foreign Service in 2007 because he was tired of seeing his partner treated unfairly compared to the spouses of his hetero counterparts.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on the committee, has supported Berman’s efforts. But New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith has opposed the move, saying Berman’s bill could force some members of the diplomatic corps to promote policies that violate their religious beliefs.

Smith was referring to a separate section of the legislation that would call on diplomats to encourage anti-gay governments to lift restrictions on the freedoms of gay and lesbian individuals and organizations.

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