The U.S. Ends Visas For UN LGBT Staff With Unmarried Partners

Beginning on Monday, the State Department enacted a new policy that restricts visas for same-sex partners of staff of U.S.-based international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank — unless the couple is legally married. 

“Effective immediately, U.S. 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 announcement on the G4-visa, or spousal visa, says on the State Department website. Current personnel were notified of the upcoming change in July.

Meant “to help ensure and promote equal treatment” between gay and straight couples, a State Department spokesperson told NBC News, the news follows a similar change to the same-sex domestic partner policy for members of the U.S. Foreign Service. What the new policy completely disregards the fact that in most countries, gay marriage is still illegal. In a few, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran, gay sex and marriage can be punishable by death.

This leaves current and future LGBTQ staffers with a difficult choice: to get married, if possible, and face discrimination and harassment in their home country, or give up their relationship for their job. 

“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,” Fabrice Houdart, a human rights official at the United Nations, told NBC. “Those being affected will be the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the poorest."

According to the new policy, those in domestic partnerships who are currently in the U.S. will have until the end of the year to get married – once that deadline passes, unmarried partners will have 30 days to leave the country. No exceptions will reportedly be made for the G-4 visa.