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125 lawmakers urge US to deny spousal visas to diplomats from anti-gay countries

125 lawmakers urge US to deny spousal visas to diplomats from anti-gay countries

New York Reps Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey.

More than 100 members of Congress have urged the US to deny spousal visas to diplomats from countries that do not recognize the spouses of gay foreign service officers.

They made their request in a letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, which was drafted by New York Reps Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, and signed by 123 of their colleagues, all but one of whom were Democrats.

‘We cannot look the other way when an American diplomatic spouse – any American diplomatic spouse – is discriminated against in this way,’ reads the letter dated 27 July.

‘If a foreign government refuses to issue the appropriate visa to same-sex spouses, we ask that the State Department reciprocate by denying a visa to the spouse of a diplomat from that country.’

The letter refers to instances where the State Department had declined or discouraged LGBTI foreign service officers from assignments ‘due to anticipated rejected from the host nation.’

The lawmakers say these actions impede the careers of LGBTI diplomats and ‘the department’s ability to ensure that it can place the best, most qualified person in each position.’

GLIFFA, the officially recognized organization supporting LGBTI personnel and their families in the foreign service, praised the letter in a statement.

‘These American families want nothing more than to serve their country,’ said President Regina Jun.

‘But less than half of US government positions abroad are in countries where we know our families can safely join us. To us, this isn’t even about the word “marriage,” but about the word “family.”

‘The members of Congress have asked for reciprocity and fairness. If these countries won’t let our American families in, why does our country continue to admit all of their families?’

Last year, Kerry said the department would ‘push back’ against countries that do not recognize the spouses of gay FSOs.

‘We oppose any effort by any country to deny visas for spouses of American staff,’ he said.

‘It’s discriminatory, it’s unacceptable, it has no place in the 21st century.’