The United States is denying visas to the partners of more than 100 gay diplomats unless they get married, officials said Tuesday.
The move comes as President Donald Trump’s administration chips away at protections of the LGBTQ community, although officials cast the decision as motivated by legal reciprocity rather than an anti-gay agenda.
Under the new guidelines, diplomats regardless of sexual orientation will need to be married in order for their partners to receive visas.
Under a previous policy implemented by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the United States issued visas to same-sex partners regardless of their marital status.
Around 105 families are affected by the decision, of whom 55 are posted at the United Nations or other international organizations, a State Department official said.
Diplomats can still obtain visas for their partners if they get married, including if they do so while in the United States.
The Human Rights Campaign, the leading US gay rights group, called the decision “unnecessary, mean-spirited and unacceptable.”
“This is an unconscionable, needless attack on some LGBTQ diplomats from around the world, and it reflects the hostility of the Trump-Pence administration toward LGBTQ people,” said the group’s government affairs director, David Stacy.
A US official countered that the policy creates the same conditions for visas that the State Department sets for its own diplomats serving abroad in light of the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States.
“It is not meant to be an attack. It is not meant to be punitive. It is a recognition and a codification of the fact that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official said the United States was aware that many gay couples faced a lack of acceptance in their home countries but that the United States wanted to “ensure equal treatment and reciprocity.”
Most diplomats affected come from countries where same-sex marriage is legal, another official said, without providing numbers.
A UN spokesman said that about 10 staff members in New York were affected and have been asked to show marriage certificates by the end of the year.
“This is a US policy, and as with other national policies in countries where staff is based, we will have to comply with it,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.