October 3, 2018
In order to legally remain in the country, those who are already residents must get married by December 3, the State Department has clarified. Otherwise, they will be deported within 30 days.
The U.S. Mission to the U.N. characterized the decision—which foreign diplomats fear will create major hardships for same-sex couples from countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy, Foreign Policy noted.
In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the U.S. extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats. Since the June 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, U.S. policy has dictated that diplomatic visas be extended only to married spouses.
In July, the U.S. mission sent out diplomatic notes to the United Nations and representatives for foreign diplomatic missions explaining the new policy, which reversed a 2009 decision by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant visas to domestic partners of U.S. and foreign diplomats.
The 2009 policy, however, did not allow a heterosexual domestic partner of a U.S. or foreign diplomat to enter the country on a diplomatic visa. “Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” reads the announcement obtained by Foreign Policy. “Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible” for a diplomatic visa.
Alfonso Nam, the president of UN Globe, a UN LGBT staff advocacy organization, told Foreign Policy that same-sex couples are at risk of prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or has not legalized same-sex marriages.
Diplomats would be eligible for “limited exceptions” under the Trump administration’s policy if they can prove that they are from countries that outlaw same-sex partners, according to Foreign Policy.
“With this change, the State Department is enforcing parity in the way they recognize opposite-sex partnerships and same-sex partnerships,” UN Globe said in a statement. “It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”
Research contact: @columlynch