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.
Following February’s news that the Pentagon is extending some benefits to same-sex partners of service members, the Peace Corps has taken equality a step further. Beginning June 3rd, same-sex domestic couples can apply to serve overseas together as Volunteers.
“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.”
Admittedly, LGBT Volunteers have had a history of acceptance within Peace Corps, but this is a new level of support that only married heterosexual Volunteers have had before. After pre-service training, Volunteers are sworn in and sent off to their work sites and most small towns and villages only receive one volunteer. However, married Volunteers may train for a couple months apart, but then are sent to the same site for their two or more years of service. The advantages of having another Volunteer nearby are too many to list, from the opportunities to work together on projects to simply having handy support from another American.
This announcement is also likely to bring on not only expected criticism, but a slew of problems for Peace Corps staff, to whom I would like to say “Bravo” ahead of time for dealing with everything. The U.S. is often criticized for being “Puritanical” when it comes to our values, but our strides in equal rights recently are considered liberal in many countries that Volunteers serve in. The problems that LGBT Volunteers would take on individually, for example—explaining why they don’t want to be set up with a perfectly lovely member of the opposite sex, will now be problems for the agency as a whole. The Peace Corps will be handling an uphill battle here, but at least they have some pretty amazing Volunteers who understand and can lend their experience.