(UPI) — Same-sex partners of foreign diplomats will have to get married to be eligible for a U.S. visa, under a new policy adopted by the Trump administration.

Such couples have until the end of the year to get married or leave the country, according to a memo circulated at the United Nations in New York City last week. The policy affects foreign diplomats and United Nations workers and took effect Monday.

The new policy is meant to “ensure and promote equal treatment” because heterosexual couples are already required to get married to receive visas, a State Department spokesperson said.

The requirement has become controversial, though, because it creates hardships for couples from countries that do not allow same sex couples to marry.

The new policy affects at least 10 U.N. employees.

“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 the U.N. headquarters or family separation,” Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch said in a blog post.

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Same sex marriage is legal in just 26 of 193 U.N. member countries worldwide, and homosexuality is illegal in 72 nations. Affected couples could marry in the United States, but could face persecution upon returning to their home country.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Obama administration, called the new policy “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”

“Needlessly cruel & bigoted: State Dept. will no longer let same-sex domestic partners of UN employees get visas unless they are married,” she tweeted. “But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage.”

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