Trump Administration Denies Visas to Unmarried, Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

Larry Hoffman
October 3, 2018

State Department officials defended the move, saying it was a matter of "parity" because under the new policy, U.S. diplomats in same-sex relationships also had to be married in order to receive benefits and be posted overseas together.

Under the new guidelines, diplomats regardless of sexual orientation will need to be married by the end of the year in order for their partners to receive visas.

"Same-sex spouses of USA diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses", the US mission wrote in a July 12 note to United Nations -based delegations.

But the official denied the move was "punitive" or an "attack", saying it was needed to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court decision to legalise same sex marriage in 2015.

"The objective of the policy is the equal treatment of all family members and couples", one official said. Same-sex marriage is only legal in a handful of countries worldwide.

If foreign diplomats in America decide to marry their same sex partner while in the United States, they could face persecution once they return to their native country.

"Officers and employees of a designated International Organization (G-4 visa holders), such as the United Nations, are not representing a foreign government when working for the International Organization".

This, it said, was "an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage".

The organization recommended that partners living in New York City "consider getting married in City Hall" before December 31.

But the Human Rights Campaign also noted that getting married in the USA still poses dangers back at home for many foreigners. However, in many situations registering a marriage could put same-sex couples at risk in a way that privately providing evidence of a domestic partnership would not have done. Now, domestic partners of UN staff who are already in the United States could face deportation "unless they submit the required proof of marriage". Homosexuality remains illegal in 71 countries.

Around 105 families are affected by the decision, of whom 55 are posted at US-based worldwide organisations such as the United Nations, a State Department official said.

The policy was made effective Monday. It is not meant to be punitive.

Only 25 countries recognize some form of same-sex marriage, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), while in more than 70 others, same-sex relationships are punishable by law.

The new policy affects at least 10 United Nations employees.

Samantha Power, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the new policy on Twitter as "needlessly cruel & bigoted".

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