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U.S. Stops Visas For Diplomats' Same-Sex Partners If They're Not Married


A new State Department visa policy declared that, starting this month, diplomats who want to bring their same-sex partners to the U.S. will have to be married. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: A State Department official says marriage equality is the law of the land here in the U.S., so when it comes to granting visas, the U.S. is now treating same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples. With some limited exceptions, diplomatic visas will now only be granted to legal spouses. On the face of it, this sounds fair, says Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch, but she worries the U.S. is ignoring reality.

AKSHAYA KUMAR: Same-sex marriage is only legal in 25 countries. And perhaps more concerning, in over 70 countries around the world, same-sex conduct is illegal. It's criminalized. It's been punished by throwing people in jail, by beatings, by caning. This is the law in those countries. How can we ignore that when we make policy here in the United States?

KELEMEN: She's expecting a lot of shotgun weddings, which she fears could put some diplomats at risk back home. Diplomats and U.N. officials already here have until the end of the year to produce a marriage certificate if they want their partners to maintain their visa status. They could be exempted if the country they represent respects the rights of Americans at embassies abroad. But as Kumar points out, staff at international organizations are in a different category.

KUMAR: What's really inequitable, I think, is that these U.N. or World Bank or other international organization staff don't have that option because there is nothing that those organizations can offer the Trump administration in return.

KELEMEN: State Department officials, who only spoke on background, say they will work with individuals on a case-by-case basis. They say there are only 105 families in the U.S. who will be impacted by this, 55 of them at international organizations. And, the officials add, most are from countries that do recognize same-sex marriage.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC LAU'S "CLOUD BURST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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