The United States has stopped issuing visas to unmarried same-sex partners of diplomats and staff of US-based international organizations, including the UN.
The policy means unmarried partners of LGBTIQ staff at the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund must effectively now get married before December 31 or leave the country within 30 days.
It reverses an Obama-era policy that allowed employees in same-sex relationships to obtain visas for their partners without a marriage certificate.
The previous policy was introduced as only around 30 countries worldwide and only 12 percent of UN member states recognise same-sex marriages.
The State Department’s website says, “Effective immediately, US 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.”
Heterosexual diplomats and officials must be married in order for their partner to receive a visa of their own.
A United Nations spokesperson said the UN believes the policy affects 10 staff members who will need to provide marriage certificates before the end of the year.
Critics slammed the move as unfair to same-sex couples from countries without marriage equality, and for those from countries where homosexuality is criminalized.
“It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage,” read a statement from UN LGBTI staff advocacy group UN Globe.
While UN workers already in the United States could opt to get married, some could potentially face risks at home if those marriage records became public documents, the group said.
Human rights activists slammed the move as discriminatory, with the Human Rights Watch saying it would “tear LGBT UN staff from partners.”
“This will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or only offer civil unions,” the group said.
“The US government should recognize, as it had for almost nine years until today, that requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy.”
Former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, tweeted that the move was “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”
(Photo by United Nations/Flickr)