National Scene

Visas Halted for Foreign Officials’ Same-Sex Partners

By Jessica Donati of the Wall Street Journal

Oct. 2, 2018 8:04 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration has ordered the State Department to stop issuing visas to unmarried same-sex partners of foreign officials working in the U.S., officials said Tuesday.

U.S. officials said the new rule was introduced in July to match the State Department’s policy for its own staff serving abroad.

“It is a recognition and a codification of the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States,” one of the administration officials said.

LGBTQ advocates said the decision ignored the reality that many same-sex couples may be reluctant to marry over fears about persecution and other concerns in their home countries. Many nations treat same-sex relationships as a criminal offense, punishable by death in some cases.

The U.S. officials said the new policy would affect about 105 families in the U.S., including about 55 families linked to international organizations. Those couples would be required to marry in the U.S. to maintain their visas. The officials declined to say how many came from countries where same-sex marriage was a legally punishable offense.

“According to our records, most are just from countries where same-sex marriage is legal,” one of the U.S. administration officials said.

Critics said the new policy was unfair and that the real number of families affected by the change would be far higher. They also said the change would make it difficult for same-sex partners of many future diplomats or officials to obtain visas.

“Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married,” said Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Twitter.

U.N. Globe, a group that advocates for the equal treatment of staff at the U.N., said the figure failed to count the number of same-sex couples that were hoping to move to the U.S. in the future. The U.N. headquarters are located in New York.

“This will have an impact on all those current UN employees in same-sex relationships who want New York to be their next duty station, and those who aspire to work for the UN in New York one day,” Alfonso Nam, U.N. Globe president, said in an email.

Unmarried opposite sex partners didn’t have the same benefits. Under the new rule, all couples will be treated the same, as legally, same-sex couples have an equal opportunity to marry in the U.S.

U.S. administration officials said the new rules were introduced to promote the equal treatment of all staff following a Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. in 2015.

“This is certainly not an attack. It was not meant as an attack; it is not meant to be punitive. It is a recognition and a codification of the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States,” one of the officials said.

The U.S. officials said reciprocal treatment would be granted to families working for countries that didn’t allow same-sex marriage but granted visas to spouses of U.S. officials in same-sex marriages.

The officials declined to say whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had extended the previous administration’s policy of monitoring progress pushing for foreign governments to accept same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats.

Mr. Pompeo personally opposes same-sex marriage but has promised to treat all employees equally.

Appeared in the October 3, 2018, print edition as ‘Visas Halted for Foreign Officials’ Partners.’