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.
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.
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.
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
I hope this motivates all of my fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters to GET OUT AND VOTE this November. Our community has fought too hard to watch our rights be rolled back by this con man and his complicit Republican party. #LGBTQtwitter #LGBTQVoteBlue https://t.co/kDGFIGkJ9q
— Ryan Knight 🌊 (@ProudResister) October 2, 2018
This is why voting matters. The State Department started issuing visas for same-sex partners of diplomats within weeks of Hillary Clinton's confirmation as SoS. It stayed that way when Kerry took over. That policy was the result of Democrats voting in 2008 and 2012. https://t.co/oE1193nsaP
— Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) October 2, 2018
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.