The angel is in the details of the Obama administration's latest report to Congress on how it will handle refugees in the next fiscal year: a subtle but significant shift in policy to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people seeking asylum in the United States.
The State Department has a new interpretation of the word, "spouse." It now means partners of same-sex refugees, reports National Public Radio.
The government announced in the report that refugees who are already qualified to enter the U.S. will now be permitted to apply to bring their same-sex partner along, even if they are not legally married.
"It's life-saving, honestly, for people who are fleeing persecution," Sharita Gruberg, Senior Policy Analyst for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the D.C.-based Center for American Progress told NPR.
Under the new policy, all that is required is an Affidavit of Relationship, and evidence that the relationship has existed for at least one year overseas prior to the application, that the relationship is on-going, and legal marriage in the home country was not possible due to what the report calls "social and/or legal prohibitions."
"This policy will help insure that people seeking protection in the U.S. don't have to choose between their safety and their loved ones," Gruberg told NPR.
The new policy does not apply to refugees all over the world, reported NPR. It only covers what the State Department calls "Process Priorities," or P-3, which is the family reunification program for certain countries experiencing humanitarian crises. Those 24 countries include Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, as well as Somalia, Sudan, and much of Central America.
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