"If a diplomat is representing a country where same-sex marriage is not legal, but which does recognize and accredit USA same-sex diplomatic spouses, that diplomat's domestic partner may still be eligible for a derivative visa", the U.S. official explained of the exemptions.
This rule has applied to heterosexual domestic partners since 2009. "In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the US extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of USA diplomats".
"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", United Nations human rights official Fabrice Houdart told NBC News. That rule has been in effect since 2009, but the Trump administration is saying because same-sex marriage is now legal in the US, it's no longer necessary or fair. Homosexuality remains illegal in 71 countries.
Samantha Power, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, took to Twitter to criticize the policy, calling it "needlessly cruel and bigoted".
USA officials told reporters that the change was meant to align U.S. policy toward foreign diplomats with State Department policy toward American diplomats posted overseas. "It is a recognition and a codification of the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States", the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
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It was detailed in a memo circulated to employees at the United Nations' headquarters in NY last month.
David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Council, which advocates for gay rights, said the State Department decision was "unnecessary, mean-spirited and unacceptable". But then secretary of state Hillary Clinton allowed same-sex domestic partners of diplomats and foreign staff to accompany their partners to the United States.
The State Department gave affected couples until December 31 to marry, either in the United States or in a third country where same-sex marriage is illegal, and present a valid marriage certificate.
The policy change was announced in July, when the State Department said it would only "accept the accreditation of spouses, both same-sex and opposite-sex", beginning on October 1.
A memo to staff at the United Nations headquarters in NY spells out the new policy, which took effect Monday, saying that couples must be married to qualify for visas.
Currently, only 26 countries have legalized same-sex marriages, the Pew Research Center noted.
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