LGBT+ Diplomats Face Dark Precedent for International Rights

Courtesy of NPR

In a recent decision released by the State Department, the United States will no longer offer visas to partners of gay diplomats without a marriage license. The decision goes against the Obama-era policy which allowed same-sex couples in domestic partnerships to travel to the United States on G visas, the same ones used for married heterosexual couples. The Trump administration pulled back this policy and instead aligned with the policy for partners of American diplomats traveling abroad which requires a marriage license from both heterosexual and homosexual couples. That policy was enacted to balance the requirements after the Obergefell v. Hodges case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

The State Department defended its choice, calling it an equalizing policy that sets the same prerequisites regardless of sexual orientation. Additionally, the Department stated that it is willing to work on a case-by-case basis with couples. However, it has actively ignored the core issue. The assumption that LGBT people have equality everywhere around the world, even though 12 United Nation countries have the death penalty for homosexuality, is egregiously wrong. This assumption blatantly ignores the “fact that L.G.B.T.I. people remain a persecuted people around the world,” as Alfonso Nam, the president of U.N. Globe (the advocacy organization for the U.N.’s LGBT staff) says.

Under the State Department’s policy of case-by-case analysis, the only way for a diplomat’s partner to receive a visa is for their home country to grant the same privileges to homosexual American diplomats. This forces LGBT diplomats in less-accepting countries to choose between their partners and their work, as they know it is unlikely that their country will accept gay diplomats so it is unlikely that their partner will receive a visa.

The decision doesn’t have a massive logistical impact, as homophobic countries rarely place an openly LGBT+ person in a high-level position, but the move goes beyond practicality to precedent. This active choice to ignore the LGBT+ community, similar to many other actions done by the Trump administration, sends mixed signals of the American stance on homosexuality. Most importantly, it shows America’s resignation as a leader in LGBT+ advocacy at a time when the global opinions on the issue are changing, a time when the world most needs an outspoken paragon.


-Gabriella Staykova