The United Nations Jan. 29 extended benefits to employees' same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners.
The change came in the form of an administrative order from Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
When an employee applies for the benefits, the UN will seek an OK from the national government of the worker's home nation 'to confirm the existence and validity of the domestic partnership contracted by the staff member under the law of that country.'
Same-sex marriage is permitted in The Netherlands, Belgium and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Domestic partnerships or civil unions are available in Denmark/ Greenland, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the U.S. states of California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Vermont.
Gay couples also have access to some spousal rights in Australia, Austria, Hungary, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
It is unclear what the U.S. government's response would be to an inquiry regarding a UN employee from a state that offers civil unions or domestic partnerships. Marriage and marriage-like unions are regulated individually by the 50 states.
It is also unknown what determination would be made when citizens of a country that does not offer same-sex unions get married in Canada. Foreigners can arrive in British Columbia or Ontario, buy a license and get married the same day.