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U.S.spyagencieswill publiclycelebratetheir lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderemployeesand encourage newLGBTrecruits at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas next week, the office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said on Friday.

In a presentation titled "America'sLGBTSpies: Secret Agents of Change," three serving intelligence officers will describe their own experiences as publicly gay individuals working foragenciesonce known for clannishness, paranoia and bigotry.

While individualspyagencieshave sometimes made presentations or statements publicly welcoming gayemployees, next week's presentation will be the first time the U.S. intelligence community as a whole will do so.

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In a circular promoting next week's event, ODNI said that in years past spies were "forced to stay closeted to keep their jobs," but over the yearsemployees' "personal struggles and pioneering efforts ... have paved the way for a culture of inclusion."

The circular says the current director of national intelligence, retired General James Clapper, is "a self-declaredLGBTally." While Clapper himself will not attend the Austin event, it will be introduced by Stephanie O'Sullivan, Clapper's principal deputy.

In her opening remarks, O'Sullivan is planning to note that the public embrace ofLGBTrights andemployeesby U.S.spyagenciesfollows a declaration by Stonewall, a leading British gay rights group, that rated MI5, Britain's ultra-secretive domestic intelligence service as the UK's most gay-friendly employer.

In a telephone interview with Reuters on Friday, Katrina Goffman, a senior FBI special agent in the science and technology branch of ODNI, said that in 2004 she became the first FBI employee to marry her partner under Massachusetts' gay marriage law. She said the FBI initially extended her and her partner full marriage benefits, only to rescind them because of a bill passed by Congress.

But Goffman, who led FBI efforts to handle and analyze key video evidence collected at the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing, said she helped to change the FBI's internal policies and eventually the law that interfered with her and her partners' benefits was rescinded.

Other speakers at the Austin conference will be Kris Gill, an official of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and Tracey Ballard, a 30-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran. Ballard, who said little about her work, said she had come out and been accepted at the CIA as long ago as 1988.

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