May 24, 2009 in Nation/World

Gay diplomats’ benefits expanding

 

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 Saturday.

In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are “unfair and must end,” as they harm U.S. diplomacy.

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.

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

Honolulu

Nation’s first digital vote ends

Voting has ended in what is being touted as the nation’s first all-digital election, and city officials say it has been a success.

Some 115,000 voters in Honolulu’s neighborhood council election were able to pick winners entirely online or via telephone. The voting, which started May 6, ended Friday.

City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.

“It is kind of the wave of the future,” said Bryan Mick, a community relations specialist with the city Neighborhood Commission, “so we’re kind of glad in a way that we got to be the ones who initiated it.”

For at least two decades, the agency conducted mail-only voting, paying the postage to send the ballots to voters and to get them back. In a money-saving effort two years ago, the commission gave voters the option of choosing candidates by mail or through the Web, but most voters chose mail ballots, Mick said.

Then the Honolulu City Council cut the Neighborhood Commission’s election budget from $220,000 to $180,000. That prompted the agency to shift to all-digital voting for this year’s races. Preliminary calculations show Web voting may cost only $80,000, Mick said.

From wire reports


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