UNITED NATIONS – A new U.N. (search) directive which took effect Friday dropped problematic language about domestic partnerships, but still allows U.N. staffers' same-sex partners to collect benefits if permitted by the laws of their home countries.
The powerful U.N. budget committee asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) to re-examine a directive that took effect Feb. 1 which allowed gay and lesbian partners of U.N. staffers to receive benefits.
That directive angered many Muslim and African nations but was hailed by the gay and lesbian rights organization at the United Nations which lobbied for years for medical, pension and other benefits for same-sex partners.
The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (search) said it was "seriously concerned about extending the scope of the family" eligible for benefits and opposed "the presumption" that same sex partners should qualify — a view backed by a number of African nations.
In asking for a review, the General Assembly's budget and administration committee did not propose specific changes, leaving open the possibility that Annan could maintain the policy, modify it or abandon it.
The new directive, obtained by The Associated Press, abolishes the previous one issued in January.
That directive stated that "family status for the purposes of entitlements" would be determined using the long-established principle that such matters should be decided by the staffer's nationality and the laws of that country.
"A legally recognized domestic partnership contracted by a staff member under the law of the country of his or her nationality will also qualify that staff member to receive the entitlements provided for eligible family members," it said.
The directive which took effect Friday makes no mention of "family status" or "domestic partnership."
Instead, it states simply that "the practice of the organization when determining the personal status of staff members for the purpose of entitlements ... has been done, and will continue to be done, by reference to the law of nationality of the staff member concerned."
It said requests for entitlements will be sent to the U.N. mission of the country the staffer is from to verify its laws.
The United Nations doesn't keep track of laws on same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships.
The vast majority of countries don't offer any benefits to gay or lesbian couples. But U.N. officials have said they are aware that the Netherlands recognizes same-sex marriages and a number of countries recognize domestic partnerships, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Germany and Belgium.