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Peace Corps will accept same-sex couples

Married couples have served together since the organization was founded in 1961.

Clone of Peace corps ghana 2011 5 4Enlarge
The US Peace Corps said it will start accepting same-sex couples. This images show Peace Corps volunteers in Ghana in May 2011. (Peace Corps Archives/Courtesy)

The United States Peace Corps announced it will begin accepting applications from same-sex couples who want to volunteer overseas together.

Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said the change will help diversify its current volunteer staff. The government program sends Americans to a host of countries worldwide to help improve their education, economic development and health care system.

"Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world," Hessler-Radelet said in a statement. "I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward."

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According to the organization's website, gay and lesbian couples will be required to sign an affidavit to verify their relationship. Couples can start applying on June 3.

However, Peace Corps Press Director Shira Kramer told CBS News that the couples will only be placed in countries where "homosexual acts are not criminalized" to protect their safety.

Married couples have served together since the organization was founded and currently fill about seven percent of all Peace Corps volunteer positions.

Homosexual individuals have also been serving in the Peace Corps since its beginning -- just not as couples.

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have volunteered in 71 countries over the past five decades.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/culture-lifestyle/traveltourism/130521/peace-corps-will-accept-same-sex-couples