In a policy change announced Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States will begin processing visa applications for same-sex couples effective immediately.
"If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world," Kerry said during an appearance at the U.S. embassy in London.
The announcement is the latest repercussion following the Supreme Court's June decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate," Kerry added.
According to Freedom to Marry, sixteen countries permit same-sex marriage — Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, New Zealand, Uruguay and Britain — while certain regions of the U.S. and Mexico also allow same-sex couples the right to marry.
The new State Department policy will also impact the children of the foreign national spouse by considering them "step-children" of the parent who is a U.S. citizen.
"One of our most important exports by far is America's belief in the equality of all people," Kerry said. "Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I'm proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States."
The announcement comes after the Senate confirmed by a unanimous voice vote Thursday four new out ambassadors. John Berry was confirmed as the ambassador to Australia, marking the first out ambassador to a G-20 country, Daniel Baer was confirmed to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Rufus Gifford as ambassador to Denmark and James Costos as Ambassador to Spain. The Senate also confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee for assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Civil Division, Stuart Delery.
[Photo: John Kerry announces new State Department visa policy for same-sex couples at the U.S. Embassy in London. Credit: U.S. State Department.]