The Trump administration has begun denying visas to the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and UN officials, Foreign Policy reports.
The federal government says the policy—which went into effect Monday, the same day as the start of the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year—brings visa policies in line with U.S. law. Because same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, it says, diplomats in such relationships must conform to State Department policy requiring that everyone seeking to bring a partner with them into the United States on a diplomatic visa is married. Those already in the United States must show proof or marriage by the end of 2018 or leave the country within 30 days.
The diplomatic community is concerned that this move will endanger same-sex couples from countries where such relationships are outlawed or frowned upon. Only 12 percent of UN member states permit same-sex marriage, according to former UN ambassador Samantha Power.
Power, who worked in the Obama administration, tweeted that the policy is “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”
The policy was first laid out in July and reverses 2009 State Department guidance under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The current administration argues that the change is an attempt to ensure that everyone is treated equally.
Alfonso Nam of U.N. Globe, an organization of the UN’s LGBT staff, told Foreign Policy that the new policy holds risks for same-sex partners. As of May 2017, there were 72 nations that criminalize male-male relationships and 45 that criminalized female-female relationships, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. If people from one of those countries get married and go home, they could face prosecution as well as social consequences.
The United States offered limited exceptions to the policy to foreign diplomats from those countries, but to get the exception, diplomats must involve their governments, which must prove there is such a law and commit to accepting the same-sex partner.
Foreign Policy notes that there at least 10 UN employees in the United States who would need to get married by the end of the year have their partners’ visas extended.