Rep. Susan Davis Demands Trump Administration Reverse Decision to Deny Visas To Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Diplomats

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Washington, October 9, 2018 | comments

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) joined 118 of her colleagues in calling on him to reverse the discriminatory policy of denying visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats.

On October 1, 2018, the State Department began implementing its policy to no longer issue diplomatic visas to the same-sex unmarried partners of foreign diplomats, and officials and employees of international organizations like the United Nations and World Bank. All current same-sex unmarried partners must now present proof of marriage by December 31 or risk potential deportation.

“This cynical decision not only runs contrary to our values as Americans, but it also puts foreign diplomats - who are committed public servants - at risk,” said Rep. Davis, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. “With international relations already frayed from this President’s behavior and actions, this decision will only make things worse.”

A signed version of the letter

Full Letter Text:

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We are deeply concerned by the Department’s decision to halt issuance of G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations (UN) officials and employees. We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision. This policy discriminates against gay and lesbian international civil servants, many of whom are citizens of countries that outlaw same-sex marriage.

On October 1, 2018, the State Department formally halted issuance of new G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and UN officials and employees. It also notified all current same-sex domestic partner G-4 visa-holders that they have until December 31 to present a certificate of marriage if they wish to keep their visas. Failure to do so will result in deportation 30 days thereafter.

Only 26 countries—a mere 13 percent of UN member states—allow same-sex couples to marry. The State Department’s 2009 decision to issue G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners in addition to same-sex spouses reflected global discrimination against same-sex marriage. In reversing this decision, your department fails to acknowledge that in most of the world, same-sex domestic partners do not enjoy the possibility of marriage—and your decision undermines the validity of these diplomats’ relationship.

The State Department justifies its decision by pointing to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, but U.S. case law is an irrelevant standard when it comes to writing rules that only apply to foreign diplomats. While same-sex marriage has been legal in the U.S. for more than three years, the worldwide struggle for LGBTQI rights continues and U.S. leadership on this issue is more important than ever.

While the State Department has said it will provide a burdensome “limited exception” for diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, the Department provides no similar exception for UN personnel—an inconsistent and unnecessary exclusion.

Additionally, such a policy could create a problem for our own diplomats as well. Because countries issue visas in a reciprocal manner, there is a potential that this policy could open up our diplomats to retaliation abroad — something that is not only unjust but potentially puts their physical safety at risk in certain parts of the world.

The United States must maintain its historical moral leadership on all human rights issues, including those affecting LGBTQI people. This policy sends the wrong message that the U.S. is not welcoming of all people. It also needlessly excludes UN personnel, and places an unnecessary burden on diplomats from countries that do not currently allow same-sex marriage. We urge the State Department to reconsider its decision.


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