On Monday, Donald Trump’s administration began denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats — a move one former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations labeled “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”
The policy change came into effect this week and will impact staff at organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The administration originally flagged the new policy back in July.
“Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” the U.S. mission wrote to U.N.-based delegations. “Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible” for a diplomatic visa.
Foreign partners currently in the U.S., and who wish to remain in the country, have been given until the end of the year to submit proof of marriage to the State Department or face being forced to leave within 30 days.
While the State Department is attempting to paint the change as a way of bringing its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy, critics point out that because the majority of the world’s nations don’t approve same-sex marriage, it will impose undue hardships.
UN Globe, a U.N. LGBTI staff advocacy organization, called the move “an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”
It is understood that at least 10 people within the U.N. will have to get married before the end of the year or face having their partners expelled.
Samantha Power, the ambassador to the U.N. during Barack Obama’s presidency, decried the decision as “needlessly cruel & bigoted” and pointed out only 12 percent of U.N. member states allow same-sex marriage.
According to Human Rights Watch, just 25 countries around the world recognize some form of same-sex marriage while same-sex relationships are punishable by law in 70 countries.
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump departs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council held during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz