Updated 3:50 p.m. ET/p>
WASHINGTON The U.S Peace Corps says it will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas.
Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet says the change will diversify the pool of applicants who want to help improve the quality of education, health care and economic development in host countries around the world.
Married couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since the organization was founded in 1961. About 7 percent of overseas assignments are currently filled by married volunteers who serve together.
Same-sex couples, however, will only be placed in countries where "homosexual acts are not criminalized" for safety reasons, press director Shira Kramer told CBS News.
"The Peace Corps will foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and provide them with guidance for maintaining their safety and well-being. The agency will provide country-specific information to applicants once they are invited to serve, and Peace Corps staff will provide additional information and training once volunteers arrive in-country," Kramer said.
Placement is also dependent on applicants' overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and medical accommodations.
Same-sex couples who want to serve together will be required to sign an affidavit verifying their relationship. Application acceptance will begin June 3.
There are more than 8,000 Peace Corps volunteers currently working in 76 countries in development programs as varied as HIV-AIDS education or information technology.