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Religious Tolerance logo



U.S. denies visas to some LGBT diplomats

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During 2009. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, defined families of diplomats, for the purposes of issuing visas, to include both married couples and unmarried same-sex partners. 5 This was six years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in DC, all 50 states and five out of six territories.

Jennifer Hansler & Richard Roth at CNN wrote during 2018-OCT::

"Under new State Department requirements, the United States will only recognize marriages -- not same-sex partnerships or civil unions -- when granting diplomatic visas to partners [of diplomats who reside with them].

The change, which took effect Monday, [2018-OCT-01] impacts the partners of United Nations officials, ambassadors, full-time embassy and consulate staff, and foreign military members stationed at US military bases or assigned to a foreign embassy or consulate in the US, among others." 1

Partners of same-sex diplomats have three months to marry, or lose their visas.

Eli Meixler, writing for Time magazine, said:

"A new Trump administration visa policy appears to give the partners of same-sex diplomats a difficult ultimatum: get married, or get out."

The ruling applies to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and to partners of staff members of international organizations in the the United Nations. They have to apply for a spousal visa, a.k.a. the G-4 visa, which requires them to be married.

A State Department spokesperson said that the new policy is designed:

"... to help ensure and promote equal treatment” between straight and gay couples."

Unfortunately, their reasoning is defective. Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN said that the policy is:

"... needlessly cruel & bigoted. ... Only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage."

Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the changes are "'cruel, utterly unnecessary" and could open U.S. diplomats to retaliation. 5

Representative Mark Takano (D-CA), who is gay, said:

"Denying visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. officials is a discriminatory reversal of a policy that recognized that not all same-sex couples around the world have the freedom to marry. ... [It] unfairly targets LGBT families." 5

In 72 countries of the world, same-sex sexual activity is a criminal offense. In some, it is a crime carrying a prison sentence, public caning 3 In a few countries, it carries the death penalty. Many of these countries are predominately Muslim; others are former British colonies who still have an ancient anti-LGBT laws on the books. According to Human Rights Watch, Cameroon, EgyptIndonesia, Tanzania, Tunisia, Russia, and Uganda have arrested people for same-sex conduct. 4

Akshaya Kumar, the deputy United Nations director at Human Rights Watch said that this policy will effectively:

"... tear LGBT U.N. staff [from their partners]. 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." 4

David Stacy is the government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign. He said that diplomats are in an elite class and unlikely to face persecution. However, he characterized the visa change as:

"... mean-spirited. ... Those diplomats should be able to bring their partners and families with them. There’s no logic or moral benefit to keeping them out. It just seems to be a way to pick on them." 5

In comparison, the High Court in Hong Kong recently ordered their government to recognize unmarried same-sex couples for visa purposes. 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jennifer Hansler & Richard Roth, "US halting visas for same-sex partners of diplomats," CNN Politics, 2018-OCT-02, at:
  2. "Trump Administration Halts Visas for Unmarried Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats," Time, 2018-OCT-02, at:
  3. Colin Stewart, "14 nations have death penalty for gay sex; 5 carry it out," Erasing 76 Crimes, 2017-JUN-12, at:
  4. Akshaya Kumar, "New US Policy Tears LGBT UN Staff From Partners," Human Rights Watch, 2018-OCT-01, at:
  5. Carol Morello, "State Department changes visa rules for same-sex partners of foreign diplomats," Washington Post, 2018-OCT-02, at:

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Copyright © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-OCT-07

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