Published: Wed, October 03, 2018
World News | By Sandy Lane

Diplomats' same-sex partners denied US visas

Diplomats' same-sex partners denied US visas

The new policy affects at least 10 United Nations employees.

Couples will be required to get married by the end of the year or diplomat's partners will be deported.

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

This will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or only offer civil unions. Those who do not will have to seek a change of visa status or leave the country to seek a new visa overseas.

But critics says the new policy will impose undue hardships on foreign couples from countries that criminalize same-sex marriages.

A European diplomat based in NY told SBS News on Tuesday: "It's tough enough being a diplomat with a same-sex partner, there are relatively few countries who will give a visa to your spouse or let them work".

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But on a conference call with reporters Tuesday, senior administration officials emphasized said they undertook a change in policy to accommodate the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

David Pressman, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs in the Obama administration, said the turning the Supreme Court decision that expands rights of same-sex couples on its head when it comes to equality.

The State Department has become more welcoming of gay employees, a far cry from the days when gay diplomats were denied security clearances since they were believed to be susceptible to blackmail.

Houdart added that Trump's administration was attacking a cross-section of embattled minorities with the new policy, saying: "Those being affected will be the most vulnerable, the most marginalised, the poorest". Some reports have suggested the families of 10 diplomats at the United Nations will come under it.

"So it's especially difficult to understand why a country like United States would take a backwards step on this and make life even harder on same-sex couples for no apparent reason".

Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power blasted the move as "needlessly cruel and bigoted". The latest policy change, the United States explained in the note, was aimed at ensuring all couples were treated equally.

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"Effective immediately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses", the State Department said on its website.

The change poses a problem for some same-sex couples who are not legally allowed to marry in their home country.

The department says it will allow "limited exceptions" if the home country's government provides documentation that same-sex marriage is illegal in the country. 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.

The United Nations sent a memo to staffers in September regarding the impending change.

"It's not an option to get married", he said, adding that in some countries coming out not only puts the person in danger but also their families.

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