United States restricts visas to unmarried gay diplomats

Same-sex partners of diplomats based in the United States will have to present proof of marriage to be eligible for diplomatic visas

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"Same-sex spouses of US diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses", which the USA mission wrote in their declaration, "Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible".

For foreign nationals coming to the U.S.to work in an global organization, as well for diplomats coming to the USA, the State Department will now make decisions about visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage "in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses", the new rules say.

A State Department spokesperson told NBC News that the government's intention was "to help ensure and promote equal treatment" between straight and same-sex couples.

The requirement has become controversial, though, because it creates hardships for couples from countries that do not allow same sex couples to marry.

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.

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"So it's especially difficult to understand why a country like United States would take a backwards step on this and make life even harder on same-sex couples for no apparent reason".

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the policy change "cruel, utterly unnecessary" and warned it could open USA diplomats to retaliation.

"Only 12% of United Nations member states allow same-sex marriage", she wrote on Twitter.

In a 12 July note to the United Nations, the US Mission to the United Nations lauded the change as a step towards equality, saying "same-sex spouses of US diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses", US media report.

The organization recommended that partners living in New York City "consider getting married in City Hall" before December 31.

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Human Rights Watch said it is concerned the policy will "have an insidious impact" on same-sex partners from countries that criminalise same-sex marriages. That exception will only apply to diplomats, not to employees of the United Nations and other worldwide organizations.

Unmarried heterosexual partners are also not eligible for U.S. visas.

LGBTQ activists, for their part, have expressed alarm that the move will actually harm these couples, many of whom hail from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal. They will be granted a diplomatic visa if the government which sends them to work in their embassies in the United States grants the same privileges to same-sex partners of U.S. officials sent to that country.

'Requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the awful discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries, ' she wrote in a statement. "Egypt, Tunisia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Indonesia, Uganda, Russia, and many other countries have arrested people for same-sex conduct".

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