Homosexuality is illegal in many countries, but Trump is still forcing the same-sex partners of United Nations staffers to get legally married if they want to stay in the U.S.
October is LGBTQ History Month in the United States — and the Trump administration is celebrating by oppressing same-sex couples who work for the United Nations.
The administration is offering an awful "choice" to the same-sex partners of people who work for U.S.-based international organizations: get legally married, or get out of the country.
Trump's State Department is denying spousal visas to the partners of LGBTQ employees of organizations like the U.N., the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, unless the couple is legally married.
The State Department is reversing a 2009 rule, spearheaded by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that granted spousal visas to same-sex couples who are domestic partners.
This policy made sense then and still makes sense now, because same-sex couples simply don't have the option to get legally married in many countries.
Only 25 countries, or 12 percent of U.N. member states, actually recognize marriage equality — and homosexuality is a crime in at least 70 countries. It's still punishable by death in some countries, like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Couples who currently live in the U.S. have until the end of the year to get married. Foreign staffers who have not yet arrived in the U.S. won't be able to get visas for their partners unless they are already married.
"U.N., World Bank, and IMF staff from countries that do not recognize same-sex marriage face a stark choice: enter a relationship that could result in prison time back home, or abandon their relationship for their career," NBC reports.
Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted that the policy change is "needlessly cruel & bigoted."
Strangely, the administration reportedly told some foreign governments — but not U.N. officials — that it would offer "limited exceptions" to diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal. But those governments would also have to commit to accepting same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats, which seems like a lot to expect from anti-gay regimes.
Possibly the sickest part of all of this? The State Department claims that the discriminatory policy change is all in the name of equality.
According to a statement from a State Department spokesperson, the change is “to help ensure and promote equal treatment” between straight and gay couples, since straight couples have to be married in order to get a spousal visa.
But of course, when only heterosexual couples are guaranteed marriage rights worldwide and same-sex couples aren't, it's the opposite of "equal treatment" to demand that both straight and gay couples must be legally married in order to get visas.
It's also worth noting that in 2014, Russia tried and failed to reverse a policy that extended U.N. staff benefits to same-sex couples. Perhaps this is yet another way for Trump to make U.S. policy align more closely with Putin's wishes.
Or perhaps this is just another example of Trump and his virulently anti-gay vice president, Mike Pence, taking every possible opportunity to make life worse for LGBTQ Americans.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.