The buttoned-up ranks of predominantly straight white men who run the banking world are making more room for their gay and lesbian colleagues. But as is common with the industry's other diversity efforts, this one still falters somewhere between the soaring rhetoric and the on-the-ground realities.

On the positive side, big banks have made significant strides in shutting down the frequently overt discrimination gay and lesbian employees once faced, bankers say. Many companies provide benefits for same-sex couples, and senior executives from Bank of America (BAC) to Goldman Sachs (GS) have been among the corporate world's most vocal supporters of same-sex marriage and other equal rights.

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