(Reuters) - The Peace Corps said on Tuesday it will start accepting applications next month from same-sex couples who want to volunteer together as part of the overseas service program.
But not all of the 76 countries that host the program established by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 will be open as assignments for those couples, an agency spokeswoman said.
"The Peace Corps is only going to consider placement for same-sex couples in countries where homosexual acts are not criminalized," spokeswoman Shira Kramer said.
"We're obviously aiming to foster the most productive and safe environments for same-sex couples," she added.
Married heterosexual couples have been allowed to serve together since the Peace Corps was created. The agency said they fill 7 percent of its assignments, as opportunities for couples to be posted together are limited.
Including same-sex domestic partners in the application process will expand the pool of people considered to help fulfill the agency's mission of promoting peace and understanding between the United States and other counties, the organization said.
Same-sex couples can apply starting on June 3 and will have to sign an affidavit verifying their relationship before leaving to serve, the Peace Corps said.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)