The Trump Administration implemented a new policy on Monday which denies visas to the same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees. This reverses a policy put in place by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009. The Administration will now only grant visas to same-sex partners if they are legally married.
The Trump Administration argues that this policy brings the treatment of same-sex couples in line with the treatment of opposite-sex couples and is more in keeping with the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. The United States only issues visas to the spouses of opposite-sex couples and not domestic partners, so the new policy brings treats same-sex couples equally.
The United Nations issued a circular in September from the US mission to the UN explaining both the rationale and the implications of the new policy. They informed diplomats and employees with same-sex domestic partners on G-4 non-immigrant visas that they will have to be legally married in order to stay in the U.S. They have until the end of the year to comply or leave for their home country.
Opponents of the new policy argue that this places a hardship on same-sex couples from countries that either criminalize homosexuality, do not recognize the validity of gay marriages, or only have civil unions. They say this forces the partners of UN employees and diplomats to live apart from their partners or get married in the United States and face banishment from their home country.
Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, tweeted her displeasure with the new rule calling it “needlessly cruel and bigoted.” She went on to point out that only 12% of UN member countries have legalized gay marriage.
Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married. But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage. https://t.co/MjZpRVLYcf
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) September 28, 2018
UN Globe, an organization that lobbies for “equality and non-discrimination” of LGBT staff at the UN and among their peacekeepers, said the new rule was “unfortunate.” They said, “same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited options when it comes to marriage.”
The U.S. told foreign governments they would make limited exceptions for the same-sex partners of diplomats representing nations where same-sex marriage is illegal. However, the country sending the diplomat would need to provide documentation showing that they do not allow gay marriage and promise to accept the same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats. This exception does not apply to employees at the UN.
News reports estimate that 10 UN employees will need to marry by the end of the year or their partners will lose their visas.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Spencer Platt/Staff