by Bushra Azim Boblai. Photo credit to Reuters, Kevin Lamarque.
There was a time when being a public official and having a non-heterosexual relationship were mutually exclusive – a career suicide. While LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way in the past fifty years, this is unfortunately still the case for many public officials around the world.
This October, the Trump administration declared that they would no longer issue family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and employees who work in international organizations. This policy is not the first homophobic attack from the Republican government that oversees the ‘free world’. The government had removed all traces of LGBTQ+ issues from federal websites almost immediately after resuming office. They then proceeded to repeal guidelines from Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 which protected the rights of Transgender students across the country. They also introduced policy that prevented transgender Americans from enlisting or serving in the armed forces. These actions should be of concern to all, as the safety and rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community are at stake.
With this policy, international couples will have to present a proof of marriage to obtain diplomatic family visas even though only 12% of United Nations member states permit same-sex marriage. Same-sex partners of diplomats that already possess the visa must present a proof of marriage by the end of the year to qualify for renewal or they will be asked to leave the country within 30-days of the year-end deadline. State Department officials, in a press briefing, told journalists that this policy change will affect 105 families of diplomats and employees in the USA, 55 of them with international organizations and the remaining affiliated with embassies and diplomatic offices.
Even though the State Department has not issued G-4 domestic visas to heterosexual domestic partners since 2009, it is unfair to group them together as heterosexual couples do not face the same legal and political barriers as LGBTQ+ couples when it comes to marriage. This ruling, which Samantha Power, a Harvard professor and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations has called “needlessly cruel & bigoted” on her twitter platform, is a blatant contradiction to the 2010 State Department directive that stated that United States missions should ask all foreign missions to provide visas to same-sex partners of American diplomats.
It is imperative that the Trump administration and the United States of America be held accountable for their discriminatory behaviour, as this policy will make the lives of LGBTQ+ diplomatic significantly more difficult. If the United States values equality as much as it claims, the biases of its public officials should not affect policies that cause detriment to innocent families.