October is celebrated as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) History Month in the United States, coinciding with the National Coming Out Day on October 11. Making it historical further, the White House has made a decision to not permit visas to the same-sex partners of the diplomats and employees of international organizations.
On Tuesday, the State Department officials said that the Trump administration will no longer allot visas to same-sex domestic partners of diplomats and United Nations staff, who are working in the US. The new policy also applies to employees working in the US for the World Bank, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other groups.
On September 13, the UN published a memo explaining that “the Department of State will not issue a G-4 visa for same-sex domestic partners.” It also said that the partners of diplomats and the UN staff must provide a legal proof of their marriage to be eligible for a G-4 visa.
A number of gay rights advocated, including the United Nations employees and those who could be affected with the policy change, sharply criticized the shift. Many highlighted that only 12 per cent of 193 members of the UN have legalized same-sex marriages. However, the State Department officials said that legal workarounds could be discussed for couples who are forbidden from marrying in their home countries, on a case-by-case basis.
The United Nations memo also stated that same-sex domestic partners of diplomats and workers who have already acquired a G-4 visa, are now liable to submit legal proof of marriage by the end of the year, in order to qualify a renewal. It also stated that in case the marriage proof will not be submitted, the partner will have to deport the US within the period of 30 days of the year-end deadline.
The policy shift took effect on Monday. However, it was initially raised in an internal State Department memo dated July 20, as reported by The Washington Blade reported in August.
The policy change has reportedly affected about 105 families — 55 with international organizations and the rest at embassies and other diplomatic missions — of foreign envoys and employees in the US.
The new policy has been viewed as ‘discriminatory’ by the critics, who warned that it will block several foreigners who come the US to work, in case their partners will not acquire a diplomatic visa to accompany them.
Akshaya Kumar, the group’s deputy UN director, wrote, “This will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or only offer civil unions.”
She further added, “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, one that replicates the terrible discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries, and should be immediately reversed.”
Since the time when same-sex marriages were not legal even in the United States, the former secretary of state Hilary Clinton had permitted married as well as unmarried same-sex partners of US and international diplomats to apply for diplomatic visas.
A liberal move that was initiated years ago, has now taken a conservative shift. What is the agenda behind this rule change of the Trump administration? While many are calling it a cruel policy, will it do any good for the United States?