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Trump administration forces same-sex partners of UN staff to marry or leave

Josh Jackman October 2, 2018
JOHNSON CITY, TN - OCTOBER 01: President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally at Freedom Hall on October 1, 2018 in Johnson City, Tennessee. President Trump held the rally to support Republican senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Tennessee (Sean Rayford/Getty)

President Donald Trump’s administration will stop giving visas to unmarried same-sex partners of UN employees, in a move which could endanger lives.

In a statement published on its website on October 1, the State Department has warned: “Effective immediately, US embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”

The new policy, which rolls back the work of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and LGBT+ rights champion UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also affects World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City, Tennessee on October 1, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump has cracked down on LGBT+ rights since being elected (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty)

This means that to acquire a G-4 visa, a nonimmigrant US visa for employees of international organisations and members of their immediate families, partners of same-sex staff will have to marry or face not being able to live with their partners.

There are currently at least 10 UN employees in the US that would be affected by the policy change, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

Out of the 193 member states of the UN, just 25 countries have legalised same-sex marriage. It’s illegal to be gay in around 69 countries, and several still have the death penalty.

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.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo attends a media briefing during the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The State Department is headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Stephanie Keith/Getty)

Straight couples do not risk abuse, prison or death simply for being married. Unlike their straight counterparts, many gay employees of these groups now face a choice: risk punishment back home or give up their relationship.

The State Department is headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has refused to distance himself from past comments describing gay people as a “perversion” and said he stands by his “very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry.”

The Democratic National Committee’s LGBTQ Media Director, Lucas Acosta, condemned the move, saying: “The policy of granting visas to the same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats helped make the US a leader for LGBTQ rights and freedoms.

“Now the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to roll back progress and make it harder for LGBTQ people to serve their countries.

“With same-sex marriage legal in only about 10 percent of UN member countries, LGBTQ diplomats could be forced to leave their posts or their partners,” he added.

“Instead of providing moral leadership on LGBTQ rights and freedoms, the Trump administration is essentially subjecting diplomats to the same discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ policies that they face in their own countries.

“The Trump administration must reverse this discriminatory action.”

David Pressman, who served as US ambassador to the UN Security Council for special political affairs under President Barack Obama, said the policy change was so damaging because the UN was “composed of probably one of the most diverse workforces of any organization in the world.”

Pressman, who advocated for global LGBT+ equality during his time at the UN, added: “If that’s how you advance equality between same-sex and opposite-sex partners, then we have an enormous problem on our hands.”

JOHNSON CITY, TN - OCTOBER 01: President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally at Freedom Hall on October 1, 2018 in Johnson City, Tennessee. President Trump held the rally to support Republican senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
The Trump administration’s move could endanger lives (Sean Rayford/Getty)

He called the move a “creative and cynical way to use the expansion of equality at home to vindictively target same-sex couples abroad.”

UN human rights official Fabrice Houdart said: “The problem with the new policy is that it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that LGBTI people still face a very challenging global environment.”

He explained that getting married was “something that is, in a way, more significant than entering a same-sex partnership for reasons that are not related to practical reasons, but reasons like: staying in the closet at home or facing gigantic penalties at home for being in a same-sex relationship.”

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 16: US President Donald Trump (R), speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Next to President Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
Pompeo and Trump (Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty)

Houdart added that Trump’s administration was attacking a cross-section of embattled minorities with the new policy, saying: “Those being affected will be the most vulnerable, the most marginalised, the poorest.”

The policy is the latest in a long line of measures from Trump’s government designed to target LGBT+ people, coming just weeks after it was accused of transgender erasure after abruptly removing a page called “Gender Designation Change” from one of its sites.

In May, the administration reversed rules allowing trans prisoners to use facilities — including bathrooms and cell blocks — which match their gender identity, 15 months after rolling back the same policy for school students.

More: international monetary fund, Mike Pompeo, Politics, president donald trump, State Department, united nations, US, US, World Bank

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