Doctors Could Refuse to Treat People Based on Race and Age Under Trump’s New Rule

A new Trump administration proposal would change the civil rights rules dictating whether providers must care for patients who are transgender or have had an abortion. News stories have mainly focused on how the proposal might affect LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, but the sweeping proposal has implications for all Americans, because the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to change how far civil rights protections extend and how those protections are enforced.

Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, has been candid about his intentions to overturn an Obama-era rule that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and termination of a pregnancy. In 2016, while at the conservative Heritage Foundation, he co-authored a paper arguing the restrictions threaten the independence of physicians to follow their religious or moral beliefs. Supporters of the approach say it protects the freedom of conscience, but opponents say it encourages discrimination.

His office unveiled the proposed rule on May 24, when many people were focused on the start of the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The rule is the latest Trump administration proposal to strip protections for transgender Americans, coming the same week another directive was proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would allow homeless shelters to turn away people based on their gender identity.

The public was given 60 days to comment on the HHS proposal. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about it.

What would this proposal do?

Fundamentally, the proposed rule would overturn a previous rule that forbids health care providers who receive federal funding from discriminating against patients on the basis of their gender identity or whether they have terminated a pregnancy.

The Trump administration proposal would eliminate those protections, enabling providers to deny these groups care or insurance coverage without having to pay a fine or suffer other federal consequences.

That may mean refusing a transgender patient mental health care or gender-confirming surgery. But it may also mean denying patients care that has nothing to do with gender identity, such as a regular office visit for a bad cold or ongoing treatment for chronic conditions like diabetes.

“What it does, from a very practical point of view, is that it empowers bad actors to be bad actors,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told reporters.

The proposal would also eliminate protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity from several other health care regulations, like non-discrimination guidelines for the health care insurance marketplaces.

Does it affect only LGBTQ people?

The proposal goes beyond removing protections for the LGBTQ community and those who have had an abortion.

It appears to weaken other protections, such as those based on race or age, by limiting who must abide by the rules. The Trump proposal would scrap the Obama-era rule’s broad definition of which providers can be punished by federal health officials for discrimination, a complicated change critics have said could ease requirements for insurance companies, for instance, as well as the agency itself.

And the proposal erases many of the enforcement procedures outlined in the earlier rule, including its explicit ban on intimidation or retaliation. It also delegates to Severino, as the office’s director, full enforcement authority when it comes to things like opening investigations into complaints lodged under the non-discrimination rule.

Why did HHS decide to change the rule?

The Obama and Trump administrations have different opinions about whether a health care provider should be able to refuse service to patients because they are transgender or have had an abortion.

It all goes back to a section in the Affordable Care Act barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex. President Barack Obama’s health officials said it is discrimination to treat someone differently based on gender identity or stereotypes.

It was the first time Americans who are transgender were protected from discrimination in health care.

But President Donald Trump’s health officials said that definition of sex discrimination misinterprets civil rights laws, particularly a religious freedom law used to shield providers who object to performing certain procedures, such as abortions, or treating certain patients because they conflict with their religious convictions.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Severino said in a statement. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.”

Much of what the Office for Civil Rights has done under Severino’s leadership is to emphasize and strengthen so-called conscience protections for health care providers, many of which existed well before Trump was sworn in. Last year, Severino unveiled a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, and his office recently finalized another rule detailing those protections and their enforcement.

The office also said the proposed rule would save about $3.6 billion over five years. Most of that would come from eliminating requirements for providers to post notices about discrimination, as well as other measures that cater to those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

The rule would also save providers money that might instead be spent handling grievances from those no longer protected.

The office “considers this a benefit of the rule,” said Katie Keith, co-founder of Out2Enroll, an organization that helps the LGBTQ community obtain health insurance. “Organizations will have lower labor costs and lower litigation costs because they will no longer have to process grievances or defend against lawsuits brought by transgender people.”

Why does this matter?

Research shows the LGBTQ community faces greater health challenges and higher rates of illness than other groups, making access to equitable treatment in health care all the more important.

Discrimination, from the misuse of pronouns to denials of care, is “commonplace” for transgender patients, according to a 2011 report by advocacy groups. The report found that 28 percent of the 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people interviewed said they had experienced verbal harassment in a health care setting, while 19 percent said they had been refused care due to their gender identity.

The report said 28 percent had postponed seeking medical attention when they were sick or injured because of discrimination.

Critics fear the rule would muddy the waters, giving patients less clarity on what is and is not permissible and how to get help when they have been the victims of discrimination.

Jocelyn Samuels, the Obama administration official who oversaw the implementation of the Obama-era rule, said that for now, even though the Trump administration’s HHS will not pursue complaints against those providers, Americans still have the right to challenge this treatment in court. Multiple courts have said the prohibition on sex discrimination includes gender identity.

“The administration should be in the business of expanding access to health care and health coverage,” Samuels told reporters on a conference call after the rule’s release. “And my fear is that this rule does just the opposite.”

[VICE]

Trump admin tells U.S. embassies they can’t fly pride flag on flagpoles

The Trump administration is rejecting requests from U.S. embassies to fly the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles during June, LGBTQ Pride Month, three American diplomats told NBC News.

The U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia are among those that have requested permission from Trump’s State Department to fly the pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, diplomats said.

Although the pride flag can and is being flown elsewhere on embassy grounds, including inside embassies and on exterior walls, the decision not to allow it on the official flagpole stands in contrast to President Donald Trump’s claim to be a leader in supporting LGBTQ rights overseas. Trump’s administration has announced a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality overseas and this month issued a tweet and formal statement to “celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made.”

The denials to U.S. embassies have come from the office of the State Department’s undersecretary for management, Brian Bulatao, a longtime associate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who also worked for him at the CIA. Under State Department policy, embassies that want to fly the flag on their flagpoles are expected to obtain permission from Washington.

During the Obama administration, the government granted blanket permission to embassies overseas to fly the pride flag during June. This year, U.S. diplomats said, embassies were told they can display the pride flag in other places, including inside embassies, but that requests to fly it on the flagpole must be specifically approved. No approvals have been granted.

The denial to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin is particularly jarring because the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, is spearheading an administration push to end the criminalization of homosexuality in roughly 70 countries that still outlaw it, as NBC News first reported in February. Grenell, the most senior openly gay person in Trump’s administration, has secured support for that campaign from both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

“The President’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the gay pride flag,” Grenell said Friday in a statement to NBC News.

Asked specifically whether the embassy will fly the flag on its flagpole outside the building, just steps from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, embassy spokesman Joseph Giordono-Scholz said only: “The pride flag will be on as many places as it can at the Embassy.”

In Germany, pride celebrations continue into the month of July for a European LGBTQ event known as Christopher Street Day that occurs on different days in various parts of Europe.

Numerous embassies are displaying the pride flag this month in other ways, including the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, which put up a large rainbow banner on the side of the building. It’s unclear whether other embassies may be flying the flag on their flagpoles without having sought permission from Washington.

The State Department in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the U.S. embassies in Jerusalem and Brasilia. The U.S. Embassy in Riga, Latvia, referred questions about the flag to the State Department.

The denials by Washington have alarmed U.S. diplomats serving around the world who are LGBTQ, with several raising the issue this week in a private group chat for members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, known as GLIFAA, several of the group’s members told NBC News. The board of GLIFAA did not respond to a request for comment.

After the publication of this story, the advocacy group GLAAD, tweeted, “Remember last week when President Donald Trump was pretending to celebrate Pride Month?”

Trump’s public declarations of support for LGBTQ rights have been sharply criticized by rights groups who say his record since taking office tells a different story.

Earlier this month, a Trump administration rule took effect barring transgender people who have undergone a gender transition or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from enlisting in the U.S. military. In the U.K. this week, Trump defended that policy by saying that transgender people “take massive amounts of drugs,” apparently referring to hormones.

His administration has also rolled back Obama administration rules designed to prevent health care discrimination against transgender people. And human rights groups have expressed concern that a new Commission on Unalienable Rights announced by the State Department this month to guide U.S. human rights policy, which emphasizes “our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights,” is designed to de-emphasize efforts to protect LGBTQ people and woman.

The news comes as pride celebrations are set to take place in Washington over the weekend, with WorldPride taking place in the U.S. for the first time this year, throughout June in New York.

[NBC News]

Trump administration bans CDC from saying ‘diversity,’ transgender,’ ‘fetus,’ and more

The Trump administration has banned seven words from the Centers for Disease Control’s upcoming budget documents, the Washington Post reports. The words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

CDC analysts were not given a reason for the banned words, they were simply informed of the new policy. Some phrases can be replaced or retooled, like by saying “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” – an actual alternate phrase offered to CDC analysts in the first briefing about these words.

But not all the words are as easy to work around. It’s no secret that the current administration is anti-abortion and pushing back significantly in the fight for trans rights. Banning these words from CDC documentation directly affects communication around HIV/AIDS and the Zika virus, among others. 

This isn’t the first attempt to curb the use of language that threatens the Trump administration’s regressive policies. In March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removed questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from two surveys of elderly people. The department also archived a webpage containing resources for LGBTQ+ people and their families.

On a more fundamental level, this aligns directly with the Trump administration’s mistrust of words and facts, and its tendency to dismiss whichever words and facts conflict with the administration’s views and messaging. The inclusion of “diversity,” “entitlement,” and “vulnerable” in the new list reflects this directly; it erases the words from relevant discourse and by extension threatens to sweep larger problems under the rug. 

Matt Lloyd, an HHS spokesperson, said that the department “will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”

[Mashable]

Trump Administration to Make It Easier for Adoption Agencies to Reject Same-Sex Parents

The Trump administration is reportedly mulling two plans that would make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, senior administration officials told Axios. One option under consideration is to rescind entirely an Obama-era policy that prevented adoption and foster-care agencies from receiving federal funding if they refused to work with same-sex couples. The other would be to add an exemption for religious organizations. The discussion is “mainly about which approach would hold up better in court,” Axios reports. The change, which could be announced as early as July, is the latest Trump administration attempt to undo the previous administration’s policies. Religious organizations have consistently bristled at Obama’s adoption policy, arguing that they’re being forced to contradict their beliefs.

[The Daily Beast]

HUD moves to allow discrimination against homeless transgender people

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving to roll back protections for homeless transgender people by enabling HUD-funded providers of shelters to consider a person’s sex or gender identification in determining whether they can be admitted.

The proposal, included in the department’s spring rule list out Wednesday, contradicts a pledge that HUD Secretary Ben Carson made to lawmakers just yesterday.

It would turn back requirements under an Obama-era rule that operators of single-sex shelters who receive HUD funding “provide equal access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with an individual’s gender identity.”

Carson told lawmakers on Tuesday that he was “not currently anticipating changing” the Equal Access Rule under questioning from Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.).

“Yesterday, I asked Secretary Carson directly if he was anticipating any changes to HUD’s Equal Access Rule, and he said no,” Wexton told POLITICO. “The announcement today that HUD will now allow anti-trans discrimination in shelters demonstrates that he either lied to Congress or has no idea what policies his agency is pursuing. Either way, it’s unacceptable.”

HUD said the proposal would give more leeway to shelter providers on the admission of people who “may misrepresent their sex.”

“Later this year, HUD will be proposing a change to the 2016 rule that will offer local homeless shelter providers greater flexibility when making decisions about individuals who may misrepresent their sex to access sex-specific shelters,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “HUD is, and will always be, committed to ensuring that every person accessing its programs can do so without discrimination.”

The proposal says shelter providers “may establish a policy, consistent with state and local law, by which such Shelter Provider considers an individual’s sex for the purposes of determining accommodation within such shelters and for purposes of determining sex for admission to any facility or portion thereof.”

Providers would be able to “consider a range of factors in making such determinations, including privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities, the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with,” according to the proposal.

[Politico]

Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections


The Trump administration appears ready to roll back health care protections for transgender people, and advocates are gearing up for a fight.

A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that’s expected in the coming days would make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients, as well as women who have had abortions.

Coming on the heels of the military transgender ban, there are fears the administration could go even further and use the proposal as an opportunity to narrow the definition of gender.

The administration hinted in a recent court filing that new health regulations could be published as soon as next week. The rule is expected to weaken or eliminate an anti-discrimination provision enshrined in ObamaCare.

The provision says patients cannot be turned away because they are transgender, nor can they be denied coverage if they need a service that’s related to their transgender status.

Religious providers say they expect the administration’s rule to reinforce their right not to provide treatment that is against their beliefs.

Advocates, meanwhile, say they are concerned that the proposal could jeopardize the gains made in making sure transgender individuals receive equal access to care.

The proposal is “likely to send an even stronger signal that the administration endorses discrimination in health care against transgender people,” said Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The rule “won’t mean that overnight transgender people can’t get health care, but it will be a steady drip of allowing more discrimination,” Tobin said.

Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said access to health care can be a life or death circumstance, and the rule could have “catastrophic effects” if it is finalized.

“To have the government take a stand in favor of discrimination is deeply upsetting, ” Strangio said.

Once the proposal is released, a public comment period will follow. After that, a final rule will be issued.

As for what comes next, Strangio said the ACLU has had two years to prepare for that.

“If the final rule looks like the proposal we are anticipating, we and our partners will file suit as soon as possible,” Strangio said. “We can expect many legal challenges to any final rule.”

President Trump repeatedly pledged support for the LGBTQ community on the campaign trail in 2016. But advocates say the president’s words increasingly ring hollow, and his administration has been steadily eroding protections for transgender individuals.

For example, the military’s transgender ban took effect earlier this month, despite objections from advocacy groups and medical experts. And the Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear arguments this year on three cases concerning whether federal law applies to transgender identity.

Additionally, the Justice Department has argued that the main federal civil rights law doesn’t protect employees from discrimination based on gender identity. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 wrote a memo saying the law “does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se.”

The existing health care rule was first issued in 2016, six years after the 2010 Affordable Care Act was signed into law. The rule prohibited providers and insurers who receive federal money from denying treatment or coverage to anyone based on sex, gender identity or termination of pregnancy.

It also required doctors and hospitals to provide “medically necessary” services to transgender individuals, as long as those services were the same ones provided to other patients.

That rule was challenged in court by a group of Christian providers called the Franciscan Alliance. They argued the rule forces insurers to pay for abortions and compels doctors to perform gender transition services, even if they disagree with those services on moral or medical grounds.

A federal judge in Texas agreed with that argument, issuing a nationwide injunction in late 2016 that is still in effect. The ruling said Congress had outlawed discrimination based on “the biological differences between males and females” but not transgender status.

The new proposed rule has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget for more than a year, something that experts say is highly unusual.

That delay is causing confusion in the health care industry: ObamaCare’s nondiscrimination statute is the law, even if a rule implementing it has been put on hold.

In a court filing earlier this month, the administration said it would be publishing the proposal soon, a move that would likely affect the lawsuit in Texas.

Luke Goodrich, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said providers would be better served by a ruling from the judge. He said they just want to make sure their religious protections are upheld.

Katie Keith, a health care consultant and professor at Georgetown Law, said, “It’s going to be really hard for people to understand their rights in health care” while the confusion continues.

Tobin, of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the uncertainty is having a harmful effect.

“At a time when the administration is trying to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, at a time when the transgender ban in military is taking effect, transgender people are scared for their ability to get the health care they need, and that their providers know they need,” Tobin said.

Goodrich argues that providers won’t turn away patients just because they are transgender, so long as the doctors aren’t giving transition-related care or “being pressured to perform abortions.”

He said the plaintiffs have been treating transgender people for years and “won’t stop doing that, because they provide care for everyone. That’s not what the lawsuit is about in our view.”

Transgender advocates are concerned the administration will use the lawsuit as an excuse to redefine gender.

The New York Times last year reported that HHS proposed in a memo that government agencies adopt a narrower definition of gender in a way that would essentially end federal recognition of transgender individuals.

No rules have been issued, but advocates say administration officials have been telegraphing their views.

The HHS memo is a “blueprint” for discrimination, and the nondiscrimination proposal is a major part of it, Tobin said.

[The Hill]

Federal judge halts Trump attempt to discharge service members deemed ‘unfit’ only because they are HIV-positive

A federal judge has issued a ruling from the bench halting the Trump administration’s attempts to discharge service members merely due to their HIV-positive status. The order goes into effect immediately for the U.S. Air Force after two airmen sued Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

“The two Airmen serving as plaintiffs, who filed pseudonymously, were given discharge orders at the end of last year after being found ‘unfit for continued military service’ despite compliance with medical treatment and physical fitness requirements,” Lambda Legal announced Friday.

The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with partner law firm Winston & Strawn.

“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma, as today’s ruling from the bench demonstrates,” Lambda Legal’s Scott Schoettes said, calling the judge’s decision, ” a major victory.”

Equality Cases Files published a copy of the ruling here.

[Raw Story]

FBI unable to find photos of Comey, Mueller ‘hugging and kissing’ as Trump claimed

The FBI says it was unable to locate any photos of former FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller “hugging and kissing” after President Trump claimed he could provide 100 such images.

BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold on Tuesday shared the Justice Department’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request he filed with the bureau asking for photographs of Mueller and Comey “hugging and kissing each other.”

The FBI said in response that its search did not turn up any records corresponding with Leopold’s request.

The bureau noted that there are three categories of law enforcement and national security records protected from FOIA requests, but added that the disclosure “should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.”

Comey, who was fired as FBI director in May 2017, joked on Tuesday that his wife was “so relieved” to hear the results.

The Justice Department’s response was dated Oct. 17, just six weeks after Trump claimed in a Sept. 4 interview with The Daily Caller that Mueller and Comey, who worked together at the FBI, are “best friend[s]” as part of a broader complaint about alleged conflicts of interest Mueller has in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“He’s Comey’s best friend,” Trump told the conservative publication. “And I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other. You know, he’s Comey’s best friend.”

The president has frequently railed against Mueller’s investigation, claiming repeatedly that he did not collude with Russia in the 2016 election, suggesting the special counsel’s office is biased against him and questioning why Mueller is not investigating Democrats.

Trump interviewed Mueller for FBI director after firing Comey last year, but ultimately appointed current FBI Director Christopher Wray to the post.

It’s unclear if Trump made the decision before Mueller was named special counsel in May 2017.

Comey and Mueller have a working relationship dating back to the early 2000s, when they both served at the Justice Department.

There is no evidence to suggest that Comey and Mueller are “best friends” or that their relationship has influenced the special counsel’s investigation.

[The Hill]

The Trump administration reportedly wants the government to revoke civil rights protections from transgender people

The Trump administration is weighing making its biggest attack on transgender rights yet in a maneuver that would strip federal recognition of the gender identity of some 1.4 million Americans — and require genetic testing in some cases to match a person’s gender with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Erica Green, Katie Benner, and Robert Pear of the New York Times reported on Sunday that the Department of Health and Human Services is floating a memo that would establish the legal definition of sex under Title IX — the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in education on the basis of gender — that would render immutable the sex of a person at birth. In other words, the government would not recognize a person’s gender other than the one based on their genitalia when they’re born.

Per the Times:

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

According to the Times, it would “eradicate federal recognition” of some 1.4 million transgender Americans.

HHS is preparing to formally present the new definition to the Justice Department before the end of the year, and if the department decides the change is legal, it could be enforced across Title IX laws and government agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

The effects could be far-reaching — it could impact which locker rooms and bathrooms transgender students could use as well as which sports teams students join or what happens to single-sex classes, the Times points out. If enacted, it could even require some people to produce DNA tests as part of their educational experience — an unprecedented step to enforce a biological definition of gender.

The Trump administration has been terrible on transgender rights

The Obama administration worked to advance transgender rights and loosen federal regulations to allow for more gender fluidity including defining gender identity as protected by Title IX. President Donald Trump and his administration have taken steps to reverse that.

Soon after taking office, the Trump administration sent out a letter officially revoking Obama-era guidance on protecting trans students in federally funded schools, saying it was federal overreach. Trump has sought to ban transgender people from serving in the military, rescinded a memo protecting trans workers, and stripped protections for trans prisoners. It has also worsened protections for transgender people in health care.

Trump on the campaign trail said he would embrace LGBTQ people and said he would “fight” for them while Hillary Clinton would bring in “more people that will threaten your freedoms and believes.” But as Vox’s German Lopez pointed out, he’s done quite the opposite:

As president, Trump has acted more or less how you would expect a typical anti-LGBTQ Republican to act. Maybe that reflects his own opinions. Maybe it reflects the views of the people he’s surrounded himself with in his administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both of whom have very long histories of anti-LGBTQ causes.

This new assault on transgender people — and one that includes genetic testing — is just the latest chapter.

[Vox

]

Trump administration halts visas for same-sex partners of diplomats, UN employees

President Donald Trump’s administration began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations this week — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa.

The policy was made effective Monday.

It comes despite the fact that the majority of countries do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries.

The shift was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month but unveiled in July, according to the State Department.

The policy shift gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country.

The State Department said in a briefing Tuesday that the policy will affect about 105 families in the USA, 55 of which have links to various international organizations. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats and U.N. employees with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

Twelve percent of the 193 U.N. member states represented in New York allow same-sex marriage, according to Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who served under President Barack Obama.

The Trump administration said the new policy is more consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. The heterosexual partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. employees are also not eligible for U.S. visas.

Critics of the move argued the policy would create hardship for gay couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or offer only civil unions. Those who marry in the USA to secure their visa status could face criminal proceedings once they return to their home nations.

“Those not yet in the country will need to show they’re married to secure a visa, potentially forcing those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation,” Akshaya Kumar, deputy U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a blog post.

UN Globe, which advocates for non-discrimination of LGBTI staff at the United Nations and in its peacekeeping operations, said it was an “unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”

Power, the former ambassador, described the policy in a tweet as “needlessly cruel and bigoted.” The State Department said the rule change would promote equal treatment. It said it recognized that not all countries permit same-sex marriage and it was prepared to work with individual cases to find a solution for those not able to marry.

[USA Today]

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