October 3, 2018 at 11:50 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam criticizes new diplomatic visa policy

Ted Osius, Vietnam, gay news, Washington Blade

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, right, takes part in Viet Pride in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Aug. 21, 2016, with his son Tabu and then-Dutch Ambassador to Vietnam Nienke Trooster. Osius has joined the chorus of criticism over a new U.S. policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam)

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius on Wednesday joined the chorus of criticism over a new State Department policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa.

Osius, who is raising two young children with his husband, Clayton Bond, told the Washington Blade he agrees with former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power’s description of the new policy as “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”

“To date, only 12 percent of U.N. member states have embraced marriage equality,” said Osius. “Denying visas to the partners of diplomats who represent 88 percent of the world’s nations will divide families and harm diplomats whose only intention is to serve their countries.”

“Most countries send their very best diplomats to the United Nations,” he added. “But some will now choose another path because the United States no longer lives up to its values of fairness and inclusion.”

Osius spoke with the Blade two days after the new policy took effect.

A State Department letter the Blade obtained in August states “all currently accredited same-sex domestic partners of officers and employees of international organizations serving in the United States who wish to maintain their derivative G-4 nonimmigrant visa status and acceptance of accreditation” should ask their organization “to submit appropriate documentation” to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions no later than Dec. 31 that indicates “the couple has legally married.”

“After December 31, 2018, unless such individuals are able to obtain separate authorization to remain in the United States through a change of nonimmigrant status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, they will generally be expected to depart the country within 30 days,” reads the letter. “However, on or after October 1, 2018, partners of officers and employees of international organizations applying for a visa renewal in the United States must be married in order to qualify for a derivative G-4 visa.”

The letter notes the new policy applies to same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on a conference call on Tuesday said it is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in the Obergefell case that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country.

“It is not meant to be punitive,” a senior administration official told the Blade in response to a question about criticism of the policy from the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTI advocacy groups.

Vietnam, Indonesia granted visas to Osius’ husband

Osius, a career U.S. Foreign Service officer, co-founded GLIFAA, a group that represents LGBTI Foreign Service members, in 1992. He is one of eight openly gay men who were ambassadors during the Obama administration.

Osius resigned last year over the Trump administration’s plan to deport more than 8,000 Vietnamese refugees from the U.S.

The Obama administration in 2009 implemented a policy that asked countries to accredit same-sex partners of Foreign Service personnel on a “reciprocal basis” in order to receive diplomatic visas.

Osius said the Vietnamese government gave Bond a visa because it considered him a “family member.” Osius, who was deputy director of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia from 2009-2012, told the Blade the Indonesian government gave Bond a visa because it considered him a “member of household.”

“We didn’t care too much about the euphemisms,” said Osius. “We just wanted the visas.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster on Tuesday told the Blade it was “difficult” to get diplomatic accreditation for his husband, Bob Satawake, because the country does not recognize same-sex marriages. Brewster described the argument the new visa policy treats same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same as “either a smokescreen or another example of how this administration is blind to the facts.”

Current U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment on the new policy.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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