Politics

Outrage Results When Visas Are Halted for Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Diplomats and U.N. Officials

Bringing policies in line with those of heterosexual couples is the goal of the change, yet gay rights advocates are furious

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Same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials must now be married to enjoy the benefits of diplomatic visas, according to State Department guidance that became effective Monday, as Foreign Policy and other outlets reported.

Unmarried domestic partners of diplomats who are not married by the end of the year will have 30 days to leave the country, said the State Department.

Two government officials said the change regarding same-sex couples was made “in order to make the requirements the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples,” noted CNN.

The policy will impact “partners of United Nations officials, ambassadors, full-time embassy and consulate staff, and foreign military members stationed at U.S. military bases or assigned to foreign embassy or consulate in the U.S., among others,” the outlet said.

At least 10 United Nations employees in the United States will have to get married by the turn of the year in order for their partners to enjoy a visa extension, Foreign Policy reported.

Critics of the policy are concerned about the impact it could have on people from countries where gay marriage is not legal, as CNN reported; less than 10 percent of United Nations member states have legalized same-sex marriage.

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The U.S. Mission to the United Nations says the change does bring international visa-granting policy in line with current U.S. law on gay marriage, noted Foreign Policy.

In 2015, the landmark Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges found that marriage is a fundamental right under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment — regardless of partners’ sexual orientation.

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The State Department guidance on the matter does provide exceptions that note the circumstances under which those from countries where same-sex marriage is not legally available; they may still be eligible for the A-1 and A-2 nonimmigrant visas, an example of which is quoted below.

“The embassies are informed that, in the limited cases of countries where same-sex marriage is not legally available, but the sending state accepts accreditation of U.S. same-sex spouses with the same privileges and immunities as opposite-sex spouses, the same-sex domestic partner may still qualify as immediate family for A-1 and A-2 visa purposes and be accepted for accreditation as a member of the family forming part of the household, eligible for the same privileges and immunities as an opposite-sex spouse.”

A parallel exception is available for currently accredited same-sex domestic partners of foreign mission members, who are requested to provide documentation to the Office of Foreign Missions by year’s end.

Reactions on social media included outrage — but many people seemed to misunderstand the exceptions available to those whose native country does not allow same-sex marriage.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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