UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided that the UN will recognize gay marriages for all employees. Until now, only staffers from the 18 countries where gay marriage is legal could get official visas and medical insurance for their same-sex spouses.
"This is a step forward that many of the staffers at the United Nations had been seeking for some time," UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. He said the change reflects Ban’s support for equality in the workplace.
The new policy applies to 43,000 UN employees but not to staffers at independent agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF, which are not authorized to simply comply with a mandate from the UN secretary-general.
UN staffers living apart from their same-sex spouses due to visa issues are expected to benefit the most from the new policy.
Since taking the top post at the UN in 2006, Ban has become a strong supporter of gay rights.
During a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Sochi, Russia that coincided with the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ban said, "We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people."
According to the Pew Research Center, 18 countries have national recognition of same-sex marriage as do some states in Mexico and the United States.