Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

USA ends diplomatic visas for United Nations same-sex partners

USA ends diplomatic visas for United Nations same-sex partners

The majority of 193 United Nations member countries do not legalise same-sex marriage, meaning diplomats face a tough choice. The same was not true of same-sex couples, for whom a domestic partnership was enough for both 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, according to Foreign Policy. But then secretary of state Hillary Clinton allowed same-sex domestic partners of diplomats and foreign staff to accompany their partners to the United States.

Same-sex couples already inside of the United States could go to city hall and get married.

Since the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalising same-sex marriage, the USA policy has dictated that diplomatic visas are only extended to married spouses.

According to Foreign Policy Magazine, there are at least 10 United Nations employees in the USA with same-sex domestic partners who will need to be married by next year in order to maintain their partner's visa.

"Needlessly cruel & bigoted", former ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said on Twitter.

This means that to acquire a G-4 visa, a nonimmigrant USA visa for employees of global organisations and members of their immediate families, partners of same-sex staff will have to marry or face not being able to live with their partners.

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The Trump administration policy is an example of evolving practices since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

Now, diplomats and officials at these organizations who are in same-sex relationships will face the choice between getting married and separating.

"The US government should recognise, as it had for nearly nine years until today, that requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the awful discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries, and should be immediately reversed".

Akshaya Kumar, the Deputy UN Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote that the change "will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples".

"[It is] one that replicates the bad discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries, and should be immediately reversed". But they could potentially be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages.

"The change in policy ensures consistent treatment between opposite-sex partners and same-sex partners by requiring that same-sex partners, like opposite-sex partners, must marry to qualify for derivative diplomatic visas", a state department official told CNN. But officials posted to worldwide organizations, such as the United Nations, do not represent a foreign government, and there are no exceptions to the policy.

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