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Peace Corps to allow same-sex couples to volunteer

 

The Peace Corps announced Tuesday that it would begin to accept applications from same-sex domestic partners who wish to serve together overseas, marking a sea change in the organization's recognition of gay rights. 

Shira Kramer, the press director for the Peace Corps, pointed to President Barack Obama’s 2009 memo as the driving force behind the change in policy.  That memo instructed departments and agencies to research and implement ways they could legally expand access and benefits to same-sex couples.  She pointed out that the agency “believes same-sex couples will bring new skills and experiences to the field that will benefit the organization.”

"The White House welcomes this announcement," an administration official said.

According to a Peace Corps official, same-sex couples who qualify to be posted together will not be sent to countries where homosexual activity is illegal to help ensure the safety of the volunteers. Currently, about 8,000 people are actively volunteering with the Peace Corps in 76 countries; seven percent of those volunteers are married couples who are serving together.

The president has trumpeted helping to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in his list of LGBT accomplishments.  However, he has taken heat for not using an executive order to ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.  

A former foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign wrote a piece last week for the Washington Post that said in part, “With a stroke of his pen, and without congressional approval, Obama could expand the 1965 executive order again, this time to cover LGBT Americans.”