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Transportation secretary hosts gay rights event

The Transportation Department played host Tuesday to an unusual public display of support by the Clinton administration for gay rights.

In a lunch-hour ceremony in the department's courtyard, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena told several hundred federal employees that he is committed to gay rights and diversity in the agency.

The government's job is too big to waste talent because of prejudice, he said. "We need to draw on the talents of everyone. It's not about special privileges. It's about equal treatment."

The organizers of the event, Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE), said Pena displayed courage by accepting their invitation to speak at a ceremony celebrating "gay pride" and by making the department courtyard available.

No other Cabinet member is hosting a similar event, they said, although Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy has joined Pena in adopting a gay rights policy for his department.

The policy bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability or sexual orientation. Unlike other forms of bias, there is no federal law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.