On the first day of LGBT History Month, the Trump administration began to deny visas to unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, according to a report in Foreign Policy. The 2009 policy, however, did not allow a heterosexual domestic partner of a USA or foreign diplomat to enter the country on a diplomatic visa.
"Effective immediately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses", the State Department said on its website.
Human Rights Watch deputy U.N. director, Akshaya Kumar, said the policy would "tear LGBT U.N. staff" from their partners, according to Time. In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the USA extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of US diplomats. In at least 73 countries same-sex sex is illegal.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power decried the Trump administration's move as "needlessly cruel & bigoted".
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Unmarried heterosexual partners are also not eligible for United States visas.
"The reality is that the difference between being in a heterosexual couple and being in a same-sex relationship is that heterosexual couples have an incredible number of choices of where they can get married", Nam told CNN.
The State Department will now "only be able to accept the accreditation and registration of spouses of newly arrived officials, both same-sex and opposite-sex, as members of the family of United Nations officials as of October 1, 2018", the memo states.
The State Department under Mr Trump has not filled a position created by former secretary of state John Kerry of a special envoy advocating LGBTQ rights around the world. The heterosexual partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees are also not eligible for US visas.
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Diplomats with same-sex partners will have until the end of the year to get married or their partners will be sent home at the beginning of 2019. But they could potentially be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages.
The policy change is a major concern for many UN workers from countries that don't recognize same-sex marriage and who have been assigned to an upcoming US posting or hope to be sent to the United States in the future, he said.
A European diplomat based in NY told SBS News on Tuesday: "It's tough enough being a diplomat with a same-sex partner, there are relatively few countries who will give a visa to your spouse or let them work".
Currently, only 26 countries have legalized same-sex marriages, the Pew Research Center noted.
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