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

Unmarried, same-sex partners of diplomats and U.N. employees have until the end the year to get married or leave the U.S.

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. same-sex partners of diplomats

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.

USAToday.com by Kim Hjelmagaard, October 5, 2019

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The unintended consequences of Canada surrogacy law changes (Opinion)

There are unintended consequences to Proposed Canada surrogacy law changes.

Canada is considered an international surrogacy destination, with progressive laws that have attracted couples internationally. But, in just over nine months, a new Canadian fertility landscape will be born, bringing new regulations for reimbursing surrogates and donors. In fertility circles – both in Canada and beyond – there is fear that these new regulations by law will discourage people from becoming surrogates and donors.Canada surrogacy law

The new regulations from Health Canada, which come into effect June 9, 2020, set out exhaustive categories of reimbursable expenses – a big change from the current system, which does not specify what can be reimbursed and allows for wide interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable expense.” That wide interpretation has allowed for flexibility in customizing fertility arrangements but may have a huge effect on Canada surrogacy law.

When the new rules take effect, eligible expenses will, for instance, include travel, insurance and legal fees, as well as counselling services and care for dependents and pets. The idea is to offer more certainty about which reimbursements are legitimate – and to allay any fears about being subjected to criminal sanctions.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said that the regulations would provide couples struggling with infertility, single individuals, same-sex couples and others in the LGBTQ2 community more flexibility in building families. Couples will have the option to offer surrogates reimbursements for certain products and services beyond the actual pregnancy and into the postpartum period, which was not previously the case. This might make it easier for couples to obtain a surrogate, as they can provide reassurance that expenses related to potential health complications arising after the delivery will be reimbursed. But at the same time, the new regulations introduce more onerous requirements for reimbursement by requiring surrogates and donors to complete signed declarations in addition to providing receipts (surrogates are exempted from providing receipts under certain circumstances).

The biggest concern is that the regulations will likely make it even more difficult to access assisted reproduction, including medical procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, to conceive a child with the help of a surrogate and/or donor. The fear is that the new regulations will further discourage individuals from becoming surrogates and donors. Currently, surrogates and donors in Canada are driven by altruistic motivations, since it remains illegal to pay a surrogate for her services or pay for ova or sperm from a donor. However, if potential surrogates and donors risk not being reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, they may be dissuaded from helping others build families.

Alarmingly, the draft guidance document interpreting the regulations released by Health Canada states that “[t]here is no obligation to reimburse, meaning that only persons who wish to reimburse eligible expenditures will do so.” This could lead to exploitation of donors and surrogates. (The guidance document has not yet been finalized; consultation on it closed on July 26.)

www.theglobeandmail.com by Melissa Salfi, September 6, 2019

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China’s Parliament Says No to Marriage Equality

Political leader says changing law would go against “cultural traditions”

Barely three months after Taiwan solidified same-sex marriage rights, political leaders in Beijing are shutting down any discussion of extending those rights to the Chinese mainland.China's parliament

Zang Tiewei, a spokesperson for China’s Parliament, told reporters during a recent press conference that Chinese law only allows for marriage between a man and a woman.

The discussion surrounding marriage rights in China is surfacing at a time of political uncertainty in Hong Kong, where protests have persisted for months over controversial extradition legislation and other political issues related to the future of the “one country, two systems” model under which the territory is governed.

Emboldened activists in Hong Kong have also set their sights on marriage rights in the former British territory, where a nonprofit organization called Hong Kong Marriage Equality was launched earlier this month, according to the South China Morning Post. Activists there are embarking on a campaign to educate Chinese people about LGBTQ rights and warm them up to the idea of same-sex marriage.

There have been some signs of progress for LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong in particular. China’s Court of Final Appeal earlier this summer ruled that same-sex partners in the city can file joint tax returns and that gay civil servants have a right to spousal benefits like healthcare coverage.

But no such progress appears on the horizon on the mainland. Tiewei, according to Reuters, stated that existing law “suits our country’s national condition and historical and cultural traditions. As far as I know, the vast majority of countries in the world do not recognize the legalization of same-sex marriage.”

Evan Wolfson, who spent years at the forefront of the American fight for marriage equality as the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, isn’t buying Tiewei’s cultural justification for rejecting the rights of same-sex couples in China.

gaycitysnew.com by Matt Tracy, August 23, 2019

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A Gay Couple Had To Flee Russia For The Crime Of Caring For Their Adopted Children

The gay couple, who had to leave Russia after authorities threatened to take away their 12- and 14-year-old sons, spoke with Russian-language outlet Meduza about their plight.

When Andrey Vaganov’s 12-year-old son complained of stomach pains in June, the ambulance rushed him to one of Russia’s top pediatric hospitals. The ache turned out to be nothing, but while there, the child told the hospital staff that he and his brother don’t have a mother who lives with them — they have two fathers.russia gay

The revelation that Vaganov and his partner, Evgeny Erofeyev, have been raising their adopted sons together for nearly a decade put them squarely in the crosshairs of the Russian authorities. Since then, the couple have had to flee the country with their two sons, accused of breaking Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda law” simply by letting their children know that they are married. The law, which makes teaching minors about LGBTQ issues illegal, didn’t pass until 2013, years after the children were adopted. Since then, it has been used as a weapon against the gay community in Russia more broadly, allowing for state-sanctioned harassment of activists and persecution of individuals like Vaganov and Erofeyev.

In an interview with Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter with Meduza, an independent Russian-language news outlet, the couple explained how they became targets of Russia’s anti-gay laws. Vaganov had adopted his elder son, Denis, in 2009, and then his second, Yuri, two and a half years later. It was around that time that Vaganov met and soon married Erofeyev, a businessman like himself, in a ceremony in Denmark, which recognizes same-sex marriages.

gay russia“We never asked our children to hide anything,” Vaganov told Meduza. “This was our conscious position, explaining why is it somehow stigmatizing and so on.” But Yuri’s admission to the hospital staff was a complication — before the child left the hospital, Vaganov was told that he and his son would need to report to the police the next morning to answer some questions. The two showed up as requested to meet with an investigator and a juvenile affairs official, with Vaganov insisting that his lawyer be present.

By the time the first interview was over, what had started as a false alarm caused by Yuri eating too much had become a news story. While carrying out his questioning, Vaganov said, the investigator handling the “preinvestigation check” frequently had to step out of the room to speak with his superiors. Soon Vaganov’s phone began to ring with journalists who had learned about the situation from a Telegram channel known for publishing confidential details about Russian law enforcement’s investigations.

Buzzfeednews.com, by Hayes Brown – August 12. 2109

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Bulgaria Court Recognizes Gay Marriage in Landmark Case

A court in Bulgaria has ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who married in France, in a case that recognized gay marriage for the first time in the conservative country.

Bulgaria gayAustralian citizen Kristina Palma, who married Mariama Dialo of France in 2016, was initially permitted to live, work and travel in Bulgaria and the European Union on the grounds that she married an EU citizen. But Bulgaria later denied her those rights, arguing that same-sex marriage was not legal in the country.

The couple fought a two-year battle that concluded Wednesday, when the court affirmed Palma’s rights as the spouse of an EU citizen.

Their lawyer Denitsa Lyubenova said the ruling could be an important first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage in the country.

 

By Associated Press via VOANews.com, July 25, 2019

U.S. Couple Sues State Dept. Over Policy That Denied Citizenship To Their Baby

An American couple’s daughter, who was born abroad with the help of a surrogate, was denied citizenship. Her parents, two gay men, are suing for discrimination.

This summer, James Derek Mize and his husband, Jonathan Gregg, celebrated their daughter’s first birthday at home in Atlanta with a party that coincided with WorldPride. Dressed in a rainbow outfit, the birthday girl, Simone, did what toddlers are bound to do: Took a fleeting glance at her presents and instead found delight in her favorite “toy,” an outdoor water hose.

denied citizenship

It was a memorable day for the parents. It was also a respite from the looming reality that Simone, who was born abroad with the help of a surrogate, would soon be at risk of being removed from the country that is her home.

“I try not to think about ICE coming to our door and deporting our baby,” Mr. Mize said in an interview last week. “That is a pretty hard thing to think about.”

On Tuesday, the couple filed a discrimination lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the department’s decision to deny citizenship to Simone, even though both Mr. Mize and Mr. Gregg are American.

Their case, highlighted in a New York Times article in May, has drawn renewed attention to a State Department policy for children born abroad through assisted reproductive technology, which has come under scrutiny in recent months for its effect on same-sex couples. In June, nearly 100 Democratic members of Congress called on Mr. Pompeo to reverse the policy, which they called “cruel” and “deeply disturbing.”

Mr. Mize was born and raised in the United States. Mr. Gregg was born in Britain to an American mother, making him an American citizen as well. The couple, who married in 2015 in the United States, decided to start a family with the help of a close British friend, who offered to be their surrogate. Simone was born in Britain last year, using a donor egg and the sperm of her British-born father.

But when the family returned to their home in the Atlanta area and later applied for Simone’s American passport, she was denied citizenship.

The family was subject to a State Department policy that places an emphasis on biology when considering citizenship at birth. If the source of the sperm and egg do not match her married parents, the case can be treated as “out of wedlock,” which comes with a higher bar to citizenship.

In their case, Mr. Gregg, who moved to the United States to be with his husband, did not meet a five-year residency requirement. His lawyers say that requirement would not have applied if the case had rightfully been treated as in wedlock.

nytimes.com. July 23, 2019 by Sarah Mervoch

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Indian high court dismisses plea for gay marriage

The Indian High Court in Dehli has turned down a plea urging it recognize equal marriage, or gay marriage, and other LGBT+ rights in India.

The court had been asked to amend the Hindu Marriage Act and other family laws in order to usher in Indian gay marriage and adoption rights, The Statesman reported on Monday (July 8).Dutee Chand

Tajinder Singh, the petitioner, argued “the constitution treats everyone equally without any discrimination. It is the duty of the state to ensure that no one should be discriminated.”

Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Harishankar turned down the request, arguing that the court was not in the business of drafting laws.

Singh had also asked that the court form a committee to look into LGBT+ rights.

In its ruling, the court said that while it would not do this, the government is free to form such a body.

“It is incumbent upon the legislature and not the court to recognise the familial relations of LGBTQ community,” the court said, according to Live Law correspondent Karan Tripathi.

Gay sex decriminalised in India

Gay sex was decriminalised by India’s Supreme Court in September 2018.

Under a colonial-era law, men, women or non-binary people who had same-sex relations faced up to life in prison.

PinkNews.co,uk bu Reiss Smith, July 8, 2019

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Ecuador’s Highest Court Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Ecuador’s highest court authorized same-sex marriage Wednesday in a landmark case seeking to expand LGBT rights in the small South American nation.

The decision by Ecuador’s highest Court came after a lengthy legal battle waged by several couples and gay rights advocates.Ecuador's highest court

With the 5-to-4 ruling, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations — Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay — that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

Plaintiff Efraín Soria told The Associated Press that he would immediately begin planning a wedding with his partner, Xavier Benalcázar, whom he met years ago and has been in a civil union since 2012.

Same-sex unions have been legal in Ecuador for a decade but civil partners enjoy fewer rights than married couples when it comes to inheritance and estate laws. In the ruling, the justices instructed congress to pass legislation ensuring equal treatment for all under the country’s marriage law.

The ruling is “a joy for our entire community and Ecuador,” said Soria, who is also president of the Ecuadorian Equality Foundation, an LGBT rights group.

A decision by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights affirming that countries should allow same-sex couples the right to marry paved the way for the case.

NYTimes.com by Associated Press, June 12, 2019

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Botswana’s High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex

Botswana’s High Court ruled on Tuesday to overturn colonial-era laws that criminalized homosexuality, a decision hailed by activists as a significant step for gay rights on the African continent.

“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized,” Botswana’s High Court Judge Michael Leburu said as he delivered the judgment, adding that laws that banned gay sex were “discriminatory.”Botswana's high court

Three judges voted unanimously to revoke the laws, which they said conflicted with Botswana’s Constitution.

“Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement,” Judge Leburu added. “It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”

The small courtroom in Gaborone, the capital, was packed with activists on Tuesday, some draped in the rainbow flag of the L.G.B.T. movement.

“It is a historical moment for us,” said Matlhogonolo Samsam, a spokeswoman for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, a gay rights group. “We are proud of our justice system for seeing the need to safeguard the rights of the L.G.B.T. community.”

“We still can’t believe what has happened,” Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, the chief executive of the gay rights group, said as celebrations began outside the courtroom. “We’ve been fighting for so long, and within three hours your life changes.”

The laws had been challenged by an anonymous gay applicant, identified in court papers only as L.M. In a written statement, read by lawyers in the courtroom, the applicant said: “We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant.”

Homosexuality has been illegal in Botswana since the late 1800s, when the territory, then known as Bechuanaland, was under British rule. Section 164 of the country’s penal code outlaws “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”

NYTimes.com by Kimon de Greef, June 11, 2019

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Russia: Chechnya Gay Purge Responders Threatened

Reports of Forced Entry, Death Threats for Chechnya Gay Supporters

Russian authorities should urgently and effectively investigate the break-in at the home of an LGBT rights activist and the death threats he and his colleagues have received, Human Rights Watch said today.chechnya gay

Russian LGBT Network, a national nongovernmental group that has coordinated the evacuation of dozens of gay and bisexual men from Chechnya since 2017, has reported that unidentified assailants forced their way into one of its volunteers’ home on May 17, 2019 and threatened him and other staff with physical violence and murder. 

“Russian LGBT Network has been a vital resource for gay men escaping the brutality of the Chechnya purge,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The Russian government, which has dragged its feet on investigating what’s going on in Chechnya, needs to put a stop to attacks on people who are providing life-saving services to the victims.”

From February to April 2017, police in Chechnya rounded up men they suspected of being gay, held them in secret locations for days or even weeks, and tortured, humiliated, and starved them, forcing them to hand over information about other men who might be gay. The attackers returned most of the men to their families, exposing their sexual orientation and indirectly encouraging their relatives to carry out “honor killings.”

Despite a sharp international outcry and Russian authorities’ repeated promises to investigate the 2017 crackdown, the government has taken no effective action. In early 2019, police in Chechnya carried out a new round of unlawful detentions, beatings, and humiliation of men they presume to be gay or bisexual.

The Russian LGBT Network reported that seven men broke into the St. Petersburg apartment of one of their volunteers on May 17. The men, whom the volunteer did not recognize, searched the apartment and threatened to beat and kill the volunteer. They said they were looking for Russian LGBT Network’s emergency program coordinator, David Isteev, and a Chechen woman who recently fled fearing persecution because of her presumed sexual orientation. Some of the attackers implied that they were police officers but refused to show identification.

HRW.org, May 28, 2019

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