The Trump administration has stopped issuing visas to the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats, officials, and United Nations employees.
Effective as of Monday, Oct. 1, the new policy dictates that only those who are married to their same-sex partner will be issued visas — regardless of whether the official or employee is from a country that has legalized same-sex marriage — Foreign Policy magazine reports.
In a memo circulated at U.N. headquarters in New York, same-sex partners were effectively told they had until the end of 2018 to get married or get out of the country. Currently, only 27 countries around the world have legalized same-sex marriage.
The United States said the change in policy was intended to reflect current practices for U.S. diplomats, where spousal visas are only granted to married spouses following the legalization of marriage equality nationwide in 2015.
It revoked a policy introduced by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 to extend visas to domestic partners to accommodate same-sex diplomats and officials.
Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, called the move by the Trump administration “needlessly cruel and bigoted” in a tweet.
Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married. But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage. https://t.co/MjZpRVLYcf
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) September 28, 2018
Foreign Policy estimated that at least 10 U.N. employees would be affected by the change. Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer at the United Nations, noted one particular example in a Facebook post after the policy change was announced in July.
“An example of who the policy change could affect is an Italian lesbian economist, working for the United Nations here in NYC, her partner and her biological child,” Houdart wrote. “Since 2009, at the initiative of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…the partner and her child could obtain G-4 visas from the State department to join the mother in NYC provided they registered their domestic partnership with the UN (or the World Bank or the IMF). This would not be the case any longer and coming December 2018, the lesbian partner and child would be expected to return to Italy within 30 days.”
Houdart said that the couple could get married in America, but that would not automatically guarantee that the spouse would be allowed to remain in the country, noting that the policy requires that documentation of marriage come from the “sending State,” not the U.S.
“Indeed, under the public policy exception, if one’s US marriage violates the public policy of one’s home country, then the marriage would not automatically be valid,” Houdart wrote.
However, UN-GLOBE, an advocacy group for LGBTQ U.N. workers, said in a tweet that “it’s up to the UN to decide what location qualifies as a marriage issuer for a visa, not the state dept.”
In a statement, UN-GLOBE called the policy move “an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”
“If you are already in New York City, consider getting married in City Hall, but make sure you fulfill all requirements,” it added.