June 03, 2007
Hillary, Obama hedge on UAFA
Posted by: Chris
Well, the bloom came off the rose pretty quickly for those of us in binational relationships. The Human Rights Campaign "report card" on the Democratic presidential candidates indicates that both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama "support" immigration rights for gay couples.
But the actual HRC questionnaire responses show both candidates hedging their support, raising concerns about immigration fraud. Clinton, in particular, said she did not believe the already overburdened U.S. immigration agency could handle scrutinizing the additional applications they would receive. The other five Democratic presidential candidates, including John Edwards, have offered their unconditional support.
My reaction to the Clinton-Obama hedge is mixed. Obviously, concerns about immigration fraud are serious and should be taken as such. The Uniting American Families Act, which extends to gay Americans the same right to sponsor non-Americans for citizenship, would put binational gay couples through the same scrutinization as straight Americans.
Still, it's reasonable to put unmarried couples through greater scrutiny than married couples because the act of marrying, with its accompanying responsibilities and commitments, is pretty clear evidence of the couple's legitimacy and credibility. Of course, there are limited jurisdictions worldwide where gays can marry, and even once married their responsibilities are subject to how they'd be treated where they divorce. It's one thing to marry in Massachusetts or Canada, for example, but if most other U.S. states won't recognize the marriage, then it's not as risky and serious a step for the couple.
Other countries have addressed this issue by requiring additional evidence of commitment and mutual interest of unmarried couples. Both the U.K. and Canada require cohabitation for at least one year. That can be a huge hurdle for gay couples, since only 20 countries worldwide allow gays to sponsor a partner for a residence visa. Perhaps a requirement like that would satisfy Clinton and Obama.
It's disheartening to see Clinton, who counts many prominent lesbians and gay men as supporters, put a price tag on our equality. That's the effect of withholding her support for UAFA because she's concerned about whether the Citizenship & Immigration Services could handle the burden of scrutinizing visa applications from gay binational couples. If she believes gay couples should be treated equally, then the question of burden should be applied to gay and straight couples equally. Unless she favors withholding sponsorship rights for straight couples, money shouldn't be a reason for withholding similar rights for gay couples.
I also can't help but wonder whether the risk of fraud is actually greater for gay couples. The vast majority of heterosexuals worldwide wouldn't dream of faking a gay relationship for immigration purposes. And even a small amount of scrutiny would pierce the veil of most.
It was encouraging to see all seven Democratic presidential candidates support UAFA, but to take Clinton and Obama seriously when they say they support immigration rights for gay binational couples "in principle," they should make clear what more they would require.
For a comprehensive look at gay immigration rights, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.
For a comprehensive look at gay issues in the U.S. presidential race, click here for the Gay News Watch summary.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.