Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced that the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas. Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.
“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”
Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture. Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.
The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship. The Peace Corps continually works with staff in host countries to identify placements that allow for safe and productive assignments.
Couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.
To learn more about serving in the Peace Corps as a same-sex couple, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/howvol/couplesfaqs/.
While there are still people whose religious beliefs or personal issues will have problems with this, for most of us, this is a good move. As you can see, there have been discussions about what might and might not be appropriate placements. I guess they've narrowed it down to 'safe' and 'productive.' What happens when a country says they do not want same-sex couples serving? What role will same sex trainees get in discussing these options with the people who make the placement decisions? Yes, there are issues, but nothing that can't be worked out fairly easily. And besides, there have been gay volunteer from the beginning, though I'm not sure when openly gay volunteers started serving.