Schneider Leads 100+ Democratic Members Urging Trump Administration to Reverse Decision to Deny Visas to Same-Sex Partners of Foreign Diplomats

October 5, 2018
Press Release
Discriminatory new policy imposes cruel requirements on LGBTQ individuals serving as foreign diplomats and UN officials

Today, U.S. Representative Brad Schneider led 119 Democratic Members of Congress urging the Trump Administration to reverse its recent decision to impose cruel and discriminatory visa requirements on the same-sex partners of LGBTQ diplomats. The letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was co-led by Reps. David Cicilline (RI-01), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Eliot Engel (NY-16), and Frank Pallone (NJ-06).

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.

A copy of the signed letter is available online.

“The Trump Administration’s new policy places a heartless burden on the service of LGBTQ diplomats and undercuts our American values of equality and acceptance,” said Schneider. “A mere 13 percent of UN member states have legalized same-sex marriage, and requiring diplomatic couples to marry could put individuals at risk in their home countries. I urge Secretary Pompeo to reconsider the ramifications of this policy and return to the previous visa system that respected the dignity of partners in same-sex relationships.”

"The recent decision by the State Department is alarming," said Cicilline. "Halting the issuance of G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials is offensive and discriminatory towards members of the LGBTQI community. This action signals a step backwards in terms of the United States' leadership on human rights issues."

"This Administration has an offensive record when it comes to equal rights for the American LGBTQ community, and now it appears they’re set to endanger the lives of LGBTQ foreign diplomats and UN employees working in the United States," said Deutch. "It’s particularly offensive that they would dare announce this policy in the name of equality. Progress has been made in this country despite, not because of, this Administration. Secretary Pompeo should swiftly reverse this decision and lift the burden on partners of foreign diplomats coming from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal."

“This policy change is cruel, utterly unnecessary, and punishes gay and lesbian diplomats who don’t live in the 12 percent of UN member states that recognize marriage equality,” said Engel. “At the same time, this regressive and unjust policy opens up our gay and lesbian diplomats to retaliation abroad—potentially endangering their safety in certain parts of the world.”

“This cruel and bigoted policy being implemented by the Trump Administration is not surprising given its clear determination to roll back the hard fought gains our country has made on LGBTQ rights,” said Pallone. “These unnecessary changes are trying to send the message that the United States is looking to renege on its promise of equal protection for all, regardless of who you love. I am proud to stand with so many of my colleagues to fight back against the malicious stance towards same-sex relationship that this administration continues to take.”


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.