Get Married or Leave the Country, Says US Administration to Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Diplomats
USA — October 2, 2018
The State Department, starting this week began denying visas to unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and employees of the United Nations, making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa.
Only if a same-sex couple is married will the spouse be eligible for a visa. This move can possibly prove problematic for some, as the majority of the world’s countries yet do not recognize same-sex marriages.
The State Department’s website on G-4 visas currently states: “Effective immediately, US Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”
This change in policy was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations' headquarters in New York last month. Foreign diplomats and United Nations workers have the option of getting married until the end of the year or they will have to leave the country.
According to a State Department spokesperson, the decision is meant to “ensure and promote equal treatment,” as unmarried heterosexual domestic partners of foreign diplomats are also not eligible for US visas. This rule has been in effect since 2009. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the US, this move by the Trump administration is an effort to bring parity.
Of the 193 United Nations member states represented in New York, only 12 percent allow same-sex marriages.
To make matters for foreign diplomats, the Trump administration has decided to make “limited exceptions” for diplomats who can prove that they are from countries that outlaw same-sex partners.
This exception, however, reportedly does not extend to UN officials.
Foreign Policy magazine, which first reported the story, estimated there are at least 10 current United Nations employees who would need to get married to get their partners' visas renewed.
UN Globe urged same-sex couples already in the US to get married in America before their partners’ visa expires. But it’s unclear what options diplomats and their partners who are not yet in the US but will be posted here in the future, have available to them.
The new regulation quickly garnered criticism for forcing same-sex couples to enter into a marriage that could earn them prison time back home.
Same-sex couples are at risk of prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or has not legalized same-sex marriages, opined Alfonso Nam, the president of UN Globe, a UN LGBTI staff advocacy organization
Samantha Power, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, called the new policy “needlessly cruel & bigoted.”
“Requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the terrible discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries,” she wrote in a statement.