A new State Department mandate that a rep says will "help ensure and promote equal treatment" between heterosexual and same-sex couples is attracting no shortage of critics, with one former US ambassador calling it "needlessly cruel & bigoted." Foreign Policy reports that under the new policy, the US will only grant G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and UN employees if the couple is legally married. That means partners looking to enter the US will have to show proof of marriage, while those already here on a G-4 have until Dec. 31 to offer such proof to the State Department; if they can't, they'll have 30 days to marry or leave. Heterosexual couples were already required to be married for a G-4 visa, and the State Department says the new rule syncs with the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage.
But UN Globe, an advocacy group for LGBT UN employees, calls the policy "an unfortunate change in rules," as gay couples from certain nations could face persecution back home for marrying. The Independent notes only about 25 countries recognize same-sex marriage, while nearly a dozen impose the death penalty for it. That means couples who choose not to marry may face the difficult choice of turning down a coveted diplomatic post or else dealing with separation, a UN director writes for Human Rights Watch. "The US government should recognize ... that requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy," says Akshaya Kumar. The US has apparently let foreign governments know there may be "limited exceptions." (Read more LGBT stories.)