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Trump Administration Ends Visas to Unmarried Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

On October 1, 2018, as much of the United States was preoccupied with stories about sexual assault, drinking, and fighting by a Supreme Court nominee, the Trump administration enacted a policy change affecting diplomats.

A September 13 memo to United Nations staff laid out the changes:

3. Since 2009, the United Nations has been informed that the Department of State does not issue a G-4 visa for opposite-sex domestic partners.

4. The diplomatic note informs the United Nations that the Department of State will not issue a G-4 visa for same-sex domestic partners. As of 1 October 2018, samesex domestic partners accompanying or seeking to join newly arrived United Nations officials must provide proof of marriage to be eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change into such status.

5. Currently accredited same-sex domestic partners of United Nations officials who wish to maintain their G-4 visa must be ready to submit proof of marriage by 31 December 2018. After 31 December 2018, they will be expected to leave the United States within 30 days unless they submit the required proof of marriage or have obtained separate authorization to remain in the country through a change of non-immigrant status.

Since 2009, the United States had accepted same-sex partners as family members when granting certain types of diplomatic visas, but now will only accept legally married spouses when granting new visa accreditations.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. portrayed the decision—which foreign diplomats fear will increase hardships for same-sex couples in countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy. 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.

Former United States ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power tweeted that the changes are “needlessly cruel” and “bigoted”:

Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married. But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage. https://t.co/MjZpRVLYcf

— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) September 28, 2018