Trump administration to deny US visas to unmarried same-sex partners of UN diplomats

Exemption that recognised difficulties faced by LGBT+ couples around the world revoked under new rules

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 02 October 2018 15:21 BST
Under new rules the same-sex partners of UN diplomats living in the US will need to be married to obtain a visa
Under new rules the same-sex partners of UN diplomats living in the US will need to be married to obtain a visa

Donald Trump’s administration has scrapped an exemption that allows the same-sex partners of United Nations (UN) diplomatic workers to receive visas without being married.

Under new rules, which came into force earlier this week, those who are unable to prove they have tied the knot by the end of December, would lose their right to legally reside in the United States.

Same-sex spouses of US diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” the State Department said in a note to UN members when it announced the changes in July.

Heterosexual couples were already required to be married to receive a spouse visa.

Critics say far from achieving parity, the new policy will put the same-sex partners of UN staff in a compromised position.

At least 10 UN employees currently working in the United States will need to get married within the next three month or risk deportation of their partners, Foreign Policy magazine reported.

Same-sex marriage is currently recognised in just 25 countries worldwide, while homosexuality remains illegal in dozens of nations, including 10 where it attracts the death penalty.

UN Globe, a campaign group for LGBT+ workers within the organisation, described the rule change as “unfortunate”.

“Same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage,” it noted, urging affected employees based in New York City to consider a quick wedding.

Samantha Power, a US ambassador to the UN under the Obama administration, branded the move “needlessly cruel”, arguing same-sex marriage is illegal in the vast majority of UN nations.

“Needlessly cruel and bigoted: State Dept will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married,” she wrote on Twitter. “Only 12 per cent of UN member states allow same-sex marriage.”

Although the option of travelling to the United States to be wed is a possibility for some workers affected by the situation, it may prove extremely hard for others.

UN human rights official Fabrice Houdart told NBC News partners of diplomats from poor, conservative countries where same-sex marriage is often illegal would find it most difficult to obtain US visas.

“Those being affected will be the most vulnerable, the most marginalised, the poorest,” he said.

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