US Bans Travel Visas for Unmarried Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Diplomats

If you thought the Trump administration couldn’t appear more hostile to global superpowers and the LGBTQ community, you certainly haven’t been paying attention. On Tuesday, the government essentially expanded its controversial travel ban by deciding it will no longer issue family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of international organizations working within the U.S., such as the U.N., according to State Department (DOS) officials cited by The New York Times and a department letter obtained by The Washington Blade.

Under these new State Department rules, foreign couples will be subjected to needlessly stricter border requirements that demand proof of marriage before obtaining diplomatic family visas to remain in the country. To put this into perspective, these 105 affected same-sex couples are being coerced by the government to either marry by the year’s end, change their G-4 visa status, leave the country of their volition within 30 days, or face possible deportation among other punishments. What’s concerning is that of the United Nations’s 193 member states, only a 12% handful have actually legalized gay marriage, meaning these homosexual couples are just shit outta luck on conducting diplomatic business unless the DOS actually sticks to its word in allowing a “legal workaround on case-by-case basis” for those many nations restricting gay rights. Talk about big government and red tape.

The policy obviously drew criticism from pro-LGBTQ organizations, which include members of the United Nations, as the changes took effect on Monday. This is a reversal of a Hillary Clinton policy from 2009, back when she served as Secretary of State, which granted G-4 visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats or UN officials. On the flip side, it did not apply to heterosexual unmarried couples, showing that neither side was seeking to allow universal travel liberties to diplomatic couples. In fact, during a DOS briefing reported by Vox, the government made that exact argument in justifying the policy, claiming this reversal is merely in line with the landmark 2015 SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, claiming “to promote the equal treatment of all family members and couples.” In other words, if one man’s girlfriend can’t travel, neither can another man’s boyfriend.

Samantha Power, a former ambassador to the UN under President Obama, also called the policy “needlessly cruel and bigoted” in a tweet, noting the limited amount of countries open to gay marriage rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy UN director, Akshaya Kumar, told TIME on Monday that the new policy will effectively “tear LGBT U.N. staff” from their partners. “Requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the terrible discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries,” she wrote in a statement.

Human Rights Government Affairs Director David Stacy told the Blade “it’s truly disappointing that the State Department is not being as accommodating as possible to foreign diplomats stationed in the United States who are from countries lacking marriage equality. These families deserve to be fully recognized, and many are from nations who do recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions. The State Department should be taking every step possible to ensure these families are able to stay together when representing their countries in the United States.”

Alfonso Nam, president of U.N. Globe, a group that specifically advocates on behalf of the U.N.’s LGBTQ employees, expressed concern for the anti-gay message this sends. “A policy that prioritizes marriages over all other forms of legal unions will have a chilling effect on all couples in the United States under a U.N.-sponsored visa who are in legal unions other than marriage,” he told the Blade. “Whether it is an opposite-sex couple who did not get married for philosophical reasons, or a same-sex couple who did not get married because marriage was not a choice available to them, they would all now have to find a way to get married in order to remain in the United States.”

Nam perfectly explains this is a form of inappropriate state power, forcing the hand of its visitors in pushing their pro-marriage agenda. For the government to truly “promote the equal treatment of all family members and couples,” freedom of movement can’t just be taken to those who want freedom from the restrictive boundaries of marriage. Is a marriage certificate relevant as to whether someone can work alongside their partner in the land of the free? Does a signature on the dotted line make a relationship any more legitimate? Should the government even have an opinion on how consenting partners practice their love? If so, the role of government now includes issuing this demand: if you like the land you’re working in, you better put a ring on it.

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