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Peace Corps opens up to same-sex couples

The Peace Corps will now start taking applications from same-sex partners who want to serve together overseas.

Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said Tuesday opening up to same-sex domestic partners will diversify the pool of applicants for the volunteer force, which serves overseas in a variety of projects, including education, health, economic development, environment and agriculture.

Married heterosexual couples, which make up about 7 percent of assignments, have been serving in the Peace Corps since it began in 1961, she said. Same-sex couples can start applying on June 3.

"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 to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together."

Same-sex couples wishing to join will be required to sign an affidavit to verify their relationship.

Though many countries that host Peace Corps volunteers have laws forbidding same-sex relationships, the Peace Corps promised to provide “safe and productive assignments.”

Peace Corps assignments for same-sex couples are new but homosexual individuals have been serving in the Peace Corps since its beginning, according an association formed for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender alumni of the corps.

The U.S. Peace Corps  was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and since then more than 210,000 Americans have volunteered for service in 71 host countries