US Halts Visas for Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

The U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok Russia is seen on Dec. 11 2017

Out of the 193 member states of the United Nations, just 25 countries have legalised same-sex marriage.

The State Department gave affected couples until December 31 to marry, either in the United States or in a third country where same-sex marriage is illegal, and present a valid marriage certificate.

The new visa regulations quickly garnered criticism for seemingly coercing same-sex couples to enter into a marriage that could earn them prison time back home.

Foreign Policy, which first reported the story, estimates that as of this week at least 10 United Nations employees in the USA will be affected by the new policy.

The US mission to the United Nations reportedly notified couples of the decision in July and it took effect on Monday, according to the report.

Critics said the policy could pose a problem in countries that do not recognize same-sex marriages.

Human Rights Watch said it is concerned the policy will "have an insidious impact" on same-sex partners from countries that criminalise same-sex marriages.

The State Department is headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has refused to distance himself from past comments describing gay people as a "perversion" and said he stands by his "very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry".

Alfonso Nam, the President of UN Globe, a UN LGBTI staff advocacy organization, told Foreign Policy that same-sex couples were at risk of prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or has not legalised same-sex marriages.

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Same-sex partners of foreign diplomats will have to get married to be eligible for a USA visa, under a new policy adopted by the Trump administration.

"Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses", read the announcement obtained by Foreign Policy.

But it also rolls back a practice championed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of diplomats or worldwide staff posted in the USA, even if they were not legally married.

Married same-sex spouses - like opposite-sex spouses - will still be eligible to enter the country, but it remains illegal in most countries around the world for same-sex couples to Wednesday.

In a statement to NBC News, a State Department spokesman doubled down on this reasoning, saying the policy change is "to help ensure and promote equal treatment" between straight and gay couples.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas addresses the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in NY.

This means that to acquire a G-4 visa, a nonimmigrant U.S. visa for employees of global organisations and members of their immediate families, partners of same-sex staff will have to marry or face not being able to live with their partners.

Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power decried the policy, calling it "needlessly cruel and bigoted".

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