The United States stopped issuing visas to unmarried same-sex partners of diplomats and staff of US-based international organizations, including the UN, on Monday (1 October).
The policy means some LGBTI partners of staff at the United Nations (UN), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have effectively been told to get married or go home.
It reverses a nine-year policy that allowed employees in same-sex relationships to obtain spousal visas without marriage certificates.
The previous policy was introduced as only about 30 countries worldwide recognize same-sex marriage. It is legal in only 12 percent of UN member states.
The State Department’s website says: ‘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’.
New applicants for diplomatic and international organization visas, known as G-4 visas, will have to be legally married if they want to bring their spouse to the US.
Unmarried spouses of current workers will have 30 days from the end of the year to either get married or get out.
Previously, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made his personal opposition to marriage equality known.
‘Needlessly cruel and bigoted’
Rights activists and commentators were quick to denounce Monday’s move as discriminatory.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement it would ‘tear LGBT UN staff from partners’.
‘This will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or only offer civil unions’.
‘The US government should recognize, as it had for almost nine years until today, that requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy’.
Former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said it was ‘needlessly cruel & bigoted’.
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
USA-based Human Rights Campaign said the policy ‘reflects the hostility of the Trump-Pence administration toward LGBTQ people and our friends and allies’.
‘It is hatred, and it is unacceptable’, the group said.
🚨🚨 This is an unconscionable, needless attack on some LGBTQ diplomats around the world, and it reflects the hostility of the Trump-Pence administration toward LGBTQ people and our friends and allies. It is hatred, and it is unacceptable. https://t.co/Vn8Qkz93gl https://t.co/mtDuzYjZpU
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) October 2, 2018