United Nations to Recognize Legal Same-Sex Marriages of Employees

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the media. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The United Nations is now recognizing the same-sex marriages of its employees by changing the way it categorizes the personal status of its staff. In a major policy shift that was brought into effect on June 26, the U.N. will honor the marriage of any same-sex couple that wed in a country where such unions are legal. Previously, the laws of a staff member's passport country were used to determine his or her personal status.

“Human rights are at the core of the mission of the United Nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, through a spokesperson. He added that he is “proud to stand for greater equality for all staff,” and called “on all members of the UN family to unite in rejecting homophobia.” He did not consult UN Member States about the change, according to the UN's news organization. 

Of course, there is an unfortunate irony here. Sam Kutesa, Uganda's foreign affairs minister, will take up the UN's General Assembly's presidency this fall as it's Africa's turn to take up the revolving leadership. Uganda enacted the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February, which includes a punishment of life in prison for homosexual sex. Kutesa's position as chief spokesperson for the law is now directly at odds with his future role at the UN, an organization that appears to be continually pushing for the LGBT rights across the globe. 

Same-sex marriage is recognized in at least 16 countries, according to the UN, and two more with sub-national jurisdictions, such the United States where individual states have passed same-sex marriage laws.