Trump Administration Halts Visas for Unmarried Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

Samantha Power

The partner must show proof of marriage by December 31 or leave the country within 30 days.

The State Department has started enforcing a new directive from the Trump administration that restricts visas for the same-sex partners of diplomats. However, in many situations registering a marriage could put same-sex couples at risk in a way that privately providing evidence of a domestic partnership would not have done.

"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.

The US mission to the United Nations reportedly notified couples of the decision in July and it took effect on Monday, according to the report.

Since 2009, UN staff working in the United States have brought their partners into the country without showing a marriage license.

The only exception, however, would be same-sex partners of officials coming from countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage.

The Trump administration on Monday began denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, and requiring those already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or leave the country.

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The requirement has become controversial, though, because it creates hardships for couples from countries that do not allow same sex couples to marry.

The United States informed foreign governments that they would allow "limited exceptions" to its new policy in cases involving diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.

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

The change was implemented Monday, and will also apply to diplomats from countries where homosexuality is criminalized, leaving them few options. Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry ordered ambassadors to pressure their host countries allow US diplomats to bring their same-sex spouses with them openly, and report progress to him annually. "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.

A State Department spokesperson told NBC News that the government's intention was "to help ensure and promote equal treatment" between straight and same-sex couples.

Samantha Power, a former USA ambassador to the United Nations, called the new policy "needlessly cruel & bigoted". 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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