U.S. To Halt Visas For Same-Sex Partners Of Diplomats

Howard TerryOct 03, 2018

Same-sex partners of foreign diplomats will have to get married to be eligible for a USA visa, under a new policy adopted by the Trump administration. Without a legal marriage, and thus without a visa, such partners face the threat of deportation; but activists point out that if they get legally married to stay in the USA, they could also face persecution upon returning to their home country.

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.

In 2014, the State Department rolled back partner benefits and protections for same-sex couples after an unmarried heterosexual couple filed an equal employment opportunity complaint, asking to be recognized as domestic partners.

But critics says the new policy will impose undue hardships on foreign couples from countries that criminalize same-sex marriages.

David Pressman, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs in the Obama administration, said the U.S.is turning the Supreme Court decision that expands rights of same-sex couples on its head when it comes to equality. Homosexuality remains illegal in 71 countries.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power decried the Trump administration's move as "needlessly cruel & bigoted". They also explained that the policy brings visa rules into conformity with the rights and benefits given to US government diplomats and staffers.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas addresses the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in NY.

The State Department has become more welcoming of gay employees, a far cry from the days when gay diplomats were denied security clearances since they were believed to be susceptible to blackmail.

The memo on the policy change, dated July 12, updates an earlier diplomatic note concerning the definition of family members. Only 26 countries, or less than 14 percent, have legalized same-sex marriage, per the Pew Research Center, and in 72 countries homosexual activity is still illegal, according to the LGBTI rights group Equaldex. If a couple can not submit proof of marriage, the partner will have to leave the USA within 30 days of the year-end deadline.

While U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made his personal opposition to marriage equality known, this latest policy reversal does not fit trends worldwide.

Akshaya Kumar, the Deputy UN Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote that the change "will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples". Twenty-six countries allow gay marriage, according to a 2017 tally by the Pew Research Center.

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