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  • May 14, 2010

    Is brown the new gay?

    Posted by: Chris

    Immigration equality banner gay immigration rights binational couples
    Meet the new scapegoats for social conservatives in this country:

    In its perversion of the professed conservative desire for checks on government intrusion, the [new Arizona immigration] law evokes the McCarthy era's war on so-called sex deviants. That reign of error in the early Cold War, as historian David Johnson documents in his 2004 book Lavender Scare, focused the resources of the federal state on thousands of trained and taxpaying workers. It succeeded in ferreting out hundreds of homosexuals and served them up as trophies to placate the prejudice and grand-standing ambitions of a few Congressional overseers. …

    The past is not the only guide toward greater solidarity with immigrants. One would think an entire decade of antigay ballot measures that played on stigma and bigotry to ban recognition of same-sex partners' freedom to marry would make the gay community staunch foes of anti-immigrant bias and its deployment in state law. That is mostly the case, in part because thousands of LGBT people are themselves immigrants or have partners or family members who must navigate the exploitation, suspicion, ignorance, and outright hate that greets immigrants, undocumented and otherwise.

    Let's be sure to stand up for them (or us, for our gay Latino amigos) the way we want to be defended ourselves. Not to mention that we desperately need the support of groups like LULAC and La Raza to make sure comprehensive immigration reform includes gay binational couples so that gay Americans can sponsor their partners for residence here and not be forced into "love exile."


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    February 15, 2010

    Will you help me and my Valentine?

    Posted by: Chris

    Shirley tan jay mercado immigration equality gay binational couples

    "We heard a knock at the door. I was still asleep when they came in."

    "They picked my mom up. They put her in handcuffs, and they put her in a van. We kept on asking questions.

    "Why is this happening to our family?"

    Watch how Shirley Tan's twin sons describe the morning that U.S. immigration police came to the Pacifica, Calif., home she shares with Jay Mercado, her American partner of 23 years:

    Because they are both women, Jay cannot sponsor Shirley for citizenship the way that heterosexual Americans can sponsor their spouses, whether their relationship is long-term or the sight-unseen, mail order variety.

    Shirley and Jay and their family tell the story as part of a new documentary from Immigration Equality, released on Valentine's Day to illustrate the plight of an estimated 36,000 binational couples, including my own. We shared tears, not kisses, on V-Day yesterday, and our conversation was over Skype, not a candlelit table.

    For me and my partner, and for the tens of thousands of couples like us, please take a few minutes to watch this brief excerpt, then visit the new Immigration Equality Action Fund website and find out what you can do to help.

    (Photo of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado and their twin sons via San Francisco Chronicle).

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    February 11, 2010

    Happy *@%&! Valentine's Day

    Posted by: Chris

    Rahm emanuel valentines day card
    After three years in exile followed by eight months apart from my partner due to this country's discriminatory immigration and marriage laws, and not particularly caring for the current White House Chief of Staff (and I'm not particularly alone in that view), this GOP valentine just about summed up my sentiments.

    I'm not saying Rahm's the R-word or anything, but his Clintonian brand of political arrogance and screw-the-base triangulation is everything Barack Obama ran against in the primaries and does not serve his presidency well.

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    July 16, 2009

    "Gratuitous cruelty" by the US

    Posted by: Andoni

    Steve and Joe

    "This is simply gratuitous cruelty. It serves no interest of the United States to be cruel to these people."
    That's how Congressman Jerrold Nadler describes the situation for the latest bi-national couple to undergo forced separation by the United States due to its arcane immigration laws.

    You can read the full story in today's Metro Weekly.

    In summary, Steve and Joe have been together for 9 years. They are legally partnered in DC and legally married in Connecticut. Steve is a US citizen and Joe was born in Indonesia but was educated in the US and has been here on a student visa and then a work visa, always legally. He was days away from gaining his permanent residency (green card), but was just laid off, which stops everything and gives him 30 days to leave the country. If Joe were a woman, the marriage would be recognized and he/she would have gotten a green card within a month or two of the marriage.

    However, in the United States, the government does not recognize any gay relationship for immigration purposes.

    I think "gratuitous cruelty" is the exact right description for this inhuman treatment.

    I you think so too, please call and write your Senators and Congressperson to co-sponsor the Uniting American Familes Act -- UAFA, S 424 (Senate) or HR 1024 (House). Also tell them that gay and lesbian families must be part of any comprehensive immigration reform bill Congress passes.

    There are few things in life as painful as the tearing apart of a family. Just imagine how angry you would be if this happened to you. Yes, "gratuitous cruelty" is a perfect description.

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    June 05, 2009

    It's put up time for the Dems

    Posted by: Andoni

    Line in the sand

    The Democratic Party (and President Obama) made some substantial commitments to the gay community during the past election campaign. They promised that if they gained control of government, LGBT Americans would be treated as equals under the law and that our families would be valued and protected.

    We soon will have a good test to see if they really meant what they said or not.

    Yesterday, Rep. Michael Honda (D- CA) introduced an immigration bill called the Reuniting Families Act (RFA), which for the first time in history includes an LGBT provision as part of an omnibus bill. The legislation would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign born partner for residency, just as a straight American citizens currently can do. Rep. Honda did not forget the Democrats' promises, so in this new era of Democratic control,  he included LGBT families in his immigration reform bill. The question now is, does the rest of the Democratic Congress also believe what they promised?

    Honda's bill is brand new and simply includes gay families in his overall plan to revise the immigration system. Republicans will do their best to strip gays out of this bill. However, the Dems control the House by a substantial margin and after Al Franken is sworn in, they will have a filibuster proof margin in the Senate. So, they will have the power to stop Republican efforts to strip gays out of this bill. Will they use it?

    Keeping a provision in a bill is a much different thing than passing a bill from scratch such as they have to do with ENDA or the repeal of DADT. So I can understand the difficulty they are having getting these two moving. And furthermore Honda's bill is an easier vote because it doesn't deal only with gay issues and cannot be labeled a "gay" bill. The gay provision is only a very minor part of the overall bill. If the Republicans offer an amendment to strip gays from the bill, queasy Dems need only take a walk for the amendment vote, but vote yes on the final bill.

    In my mind this is going to be a very telling test for the Dems. They have the power to protect us, to prevent us from being stripped out of the bill. There is no acceptable excuse if they don't.

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    June 02, 2009

    UAFA hearings tomorrow, Wed, June 3

    Posted by: Andoni

    I said I would interrupt my Greek island hopping break when some important news comes along and this is important news. Senator Patrick Leahy will conduct the first ever hearing on the Uniting American Families Act this Wednesday June 3 at 10 am.

    The Washington Blade will have a reporter there twittering during the hearing, so you can sign up to receive those. Or if you have more time, you can watch a webcast of the Senate hearing here. Either way, this is history in the making.

    I will be trying to tune in to the webcast from the Greek island of Symi, just a few miles off the Turkish coast.

    As background, here is the news release from Immigration Equality.

    The goal is to pass UAFA (the Uniting American Families Act -HR 1024/S 424) either on its own or as part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. President Obama and some Congressional leaders would like it as part of the CIR. Either way, it would be nice to get some equality for gay and lesbian families where one partner is US born and the other is foreign born.

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    April 24, 2009

    UAFA: the cartoon

    Posted by: Andoni

    You know a movement has momentum when it starts making cartoons to advance its cause. Bi-national same sex couples who want the law changed so that a US citizen can sponsor his/her same sex foreign born partner just as heterosexual couples can, have made this cartoon to help their cause.

    The legislation is called UAFA (the Uniting Americans Families Act) and is H.R. 1024 and S. 424. It's closing in on 100 co-sponsors in the House. So if you want to help out, call your US Senators and Congressperson and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. And oh, also tell them that any Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation isn't really comprehensive uless it includes gay and lesbian families in it.

    h/t SeaMex

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    April 10, 2009

    Immigration poll

    Posted by: Andoni

    The Orlando Sentinel has a great story on two couples each in a relationship with a foreign born partner. One couple is gay and one couple is straight. Of course the straight US citizen can sponsor their partner to live in the United States, the gay one cannot.

    Here is the story as well as the poll asking your opinion of the matter.

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    March 26, 2009

    UAFA: new tactic

    Posted by: Andoni


    In addition to the old plan of asking everyone to call or write their Senators and Representative to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, S. 424 or H.R. 1024), Immigration Equality is adding a second tactic -- asking everyone to spread the message that UAFA has to be part of any comprehensive immigration reform bill.

    Fact: it is quite likely that there will be a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. As a result we are now on a two track strategy, lobbying for UAFA as a freestanding bill and UAFA as part of comprehensive reform. To not try to be part of the comprehensive bill would be foolish because if it passes it is quite likely that Congress will not want to deal with any immigration issue again for many years. They will say immigration is now fixed, regardless of the facts.

    In a good sign, the White House says it supports family unification for bi-national gay couples. According to a Bay Windows article:

    Asked about Obama’s stance on UAFA [the Uniting American Families Act] and the likelihood of its inclusion in comprehensive immigration legislation, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement that: “The president thinks Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country. We will work closely with Congress to craft comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”

    This is a huge step. Now we have to make sure that Congress agrees with this. So continue those letters and calls. In my many years of lobbying, I have found that a hand written letter gets the most attention in Congress. If you need help in crafting a message here is suggestion from Immigration Equality. They have a tool so you can email your member in less than 30 seconds. Then you can get family and friends in the act by sharing their email addresses.

    But remember, if you have 5 minutes, a handwritten letter works wonders.

    Finally, here is a list of Representatives that normally support LGBT issues but have not co-sponsored UAFA yet. If you live in their district, they should be ripe for co-sponsoring, so contact them.

    Rob Andrews (D-NJ)
    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
    Robert Brady (D-PA)
    Kathy Castor (D-FL)
    Charles Gonzalez (D-TX)
    Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)
    Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH)
    Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
    Jim McDermott (D-WA)
    Patrick Murphy (D-PA)
    Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
    Joe Sestak (D-PA)
    Edolphus Towns (D-NY)

    And here is a list of Senators that should be co-sponsoring, but to date have not. If any one of these is your Senator, contact them:

    Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
    Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
    Richard Durban (D-IL)
    Herbert Kohl (D-WI)
    Edward Kaufman (D-DE)
    Arlen Specter (R-PA)

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    March 21, 2009

    Introducing: The Omnibus Gay Rights Bill

    Posted by: Andoni

    AAA equal

    Finally, someone has put together an Omnibus Gay Rights Bill.

    Officially called the Equality & Religious Freedom Act Proposal (Omnibus Equality Bill, for short), it is the work of eQualityGiving.org, a group composed of LGBT major donors and activists.

    Tired of the piecemeal approach for equal rights taken by our leadership over the past 15 (or more) years, eQualityGiving decided to put it all on the table. If the goal is LGBT equality, let's spell out exactly what that means at the federal level -- in one bill. This is a very comprehensive, very well thought out proposal that has been months in the making. It is more than just the sum of the parts of our current proposals before Congress.

    There are the major pros and cons of this approach. Critics will say that this bill is DOA. There is no way Congress will do all this. We aren't equal, we aren't close to being equal and they simply won't do it. Besides, a bill that encompasses so many issues will be split up and sent to a dozen different Congressional committees based on legislative jurisdiction, where it will turn into mincemeat when finished .....if it ever survives any of the committees.

    The pro side says that we need to show Congress what true equality really looks like for the LGBT community. When you spell out what true equality is, it is glaringly obvious that we are second class citizens at best and in many cases -- non citizens. At the least this proposal can be used as the gold standard, the measuring stick, against which all piecemeal legislation will be measured.

    So after ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act) is passed and everyone says, wow how great, we can point to the Equality Bill and say, OK, that's a little bit of what is necessary, but look at how much is still missing. I think that alone makes this bill worthwhile to have around.

    A lot of work by a lot of smart and enthusiastic people went into crafting this proposed legislation. I think you should take a look at it to see how good it is. It addresses everything but marriage at the state level, which is not a federal issue.

    Feel free to tell us what you think.

    Full disclosure: I am a member of eQualityGiving.

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    March 16, 2009

    WaPo endorses UAFA

    Posted by: Andoni

    AA WaPo

    In another good sign for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), today the Washington Post ran an editorial endorsing this legislation.

    UAFA (S. 424, H.R. 1024) seems to be on a roll. It's up to 90 co-sponsors in the House and 15 co-sponsors in the Senate. Some of you have commented that this blog is all UAFA, all the time. That's not really true, but I try to update folks when appropriate because this issue is very important to many readers.

    This issue is not your typical immigraton issue. It's not about illegal immigrants. This issue is about US citizens and for US citizens. It would simply grant a gay citizen the same (think equal) right that a straight citizen currently has to sponsor their foreign born partner to live in the US. That's all it is -- it's a citizenship right. Often times people hear the word immigration - and immediately start thinking on the wrong tangent.

    Immigration Equality is the LGBT organization trumpeting this bill in conjunction with lead sponsors Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Cong. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

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    February 17, 2009

    ABA endorses UAFA

    Posted by: Andoni

    Separated families

    The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) keeps rolling along. The good news is that yesterday the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting UAFA. It was the first time UAFA came up before the ABA body -- and it passed on the first try. This is just one of many influential organizations that have now endorsed UAFA.

    UAFA was re-introduced on Thursday by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate. Just three days after introduction UAFA already has 81 co-sponsors in the House and 16 15 in the Senate. These impressive numbers will continue to increase, but we can help them increase faster if we contact our Senators and Congresspeople.

    Congress begins anew every two years, so UAFA had to be reintroduced and as a result was assigned new legislation numbers. In the House it's now H.R. 1024 and in the Senate, S. 424.

    If you want UAFA to continue its momentum, we need to keep calling our elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Explain why it's so important for you. Tell your legislators that it's the fair and equal thing to do. Multiply your effect, by getting your relatives and friends to call and write as well. This year I got my three nices and sister to lobby their Senators and Congressman, as well as all my "fiends" on my email lists. If we all enlist our friends and relatives, this bill can be passed this year.

    Here is a web site to find your elected officials along with contact information, in case you don't know who they are. If UAFA is to pass this year, we all need to get working.

    UAFA would allow the US citizen half of a gay couple (where other is foreign born), to sponsor his/her partner to live in the United States. This is simply granting gay couples the same right to sponsor their partner that opposite sex couples have.

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    February 06, 2009

    It's UAFA time again

    Posted by: Andoni

    Binat 2

    Immigration Equality has just announced that the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 (UAFA) will be introduced into the House of Representatives by lead sponsor Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on February 13. Because it's a new Congress this legislation must be re-introduced anew.

    Last year this bill had 118 co-sponsors. The goal is to get all those co-sponsors back and then some, to make a good showing when the bill is introduced. So action is necessary. Please find out the name of your Congressperson, then call them by going through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224- 3121 and ask your representative to co-sponsor this legislation. If your Congressperson was a co-sponsor last year, ask them to become an original co-sponsor this time by calling Congressman Nadler's office by February 12 to add their name.

    Here's the spiel when you talk to your representative:

    "The US government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born life partner for immigration. Because of this, we face the terrible choice of separating from the person we love or leaving our country. As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country. Please co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 before February 12. Thank you."

    It was very encouraging to see Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese reference UAFA in today's Washington Blade as one of the legislative priorities they hoped to work with President Obama on and see passed in the near future.

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    January 18, 2009

    Smoking dope and marrying gays...

    Posted by: Chris

    Change Well, the votes are in at Change.org, and equal immigration rights for same-sex couples didn't make the Top 10 ideas, which will be presented to Barack Obama after his swearing-in -- or did it?

    On the one hand, the issue finished second among all ideas for immigration reform, but ultimately received only 1,325 votes in the second round of balloting. That put it not only out of the Top 10 but about a thousand votes short of the next 25 top ideas at the site.

    On the other hand, marriage equality did make the final list, and equal marriage rights -- or even repealing DOMA or federal civil unions -- would effectively equalize immigration rights as well. While that's good news, it's instructive to see what finished ahead even of marriage equality.

    In a fairly clever move, the folks at Change.org -- no connection with Change.gov, the official Obama transition site -- listed the top 10 finishers on the home page in something of a random order based on importance of the idea. But if you visit the web page for each idea, you can see how they really tallied.

    Legalizing marijuana was the top vote-getter, just ahead of creating a new cabinet agency called the Department of Peace and Non-Violence.:

    1. Legalize marijuana, 19,530 votes
    2. Create Dep't of Peace and Non-Violence: 14,994
    3. Single-payer health insurance: 13,928
    4. Make the grid green: 12,913
    5. Repeal Patriot Act: 12, 285
    6. Exempt handmade toy makers from safety rules:  12,280
    7. Health care freedom: 12,062
    8. Pass the DREAM Act for immigrants: 12,010
    9. Pass marriage equality nationwide: 11,889
    10. Energy sustainability: 9,644

    No other gay rights ideas, including repealing DOMA and passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, made the top 35, which means they finished behind stopping puppy mills and introducing Esperanto as a foreign language subject in U.S. schools.

    While you join me in a collective eyeroll, we can at least remember that the site was a useful venue to raise the visibility of immigration and marriage equality, among other LGBT issues.   

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    January 14, 2009

    A good start for the 111th Congress

    Posted by: Chris

    Harryreidpatrickleahy Some encouraging news from Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality about the Uniting American Families Act on the very first day of the 111th Congress:

    [When] the Senate convened, Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a short bill for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaking about the Majority Leaders’ bill, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Senate Judiciary Chair who will guide all immigration bills, gave a speech on the floor about this bill. In it he said:

    We must … live up to the goal of family reunification in our immigration policy and join at least 19 other nations that provide immigration equality to same-sex partners of different nationalities.

    Senator Leahy is the lead sponsor of UAFA, which had 19 Senate cosponsors in the 110th Congress which ended in December. We look forward to working with him again in the 111th.

    Immigration Equality commends Chairman Leahy for making it clear, on the day the new Senate convened, that LGBT families must be included for immigration reform to live up to its goal of family reunification

    The timing and fate of comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress is unclear, what with the financial crisis and the long list of easier bills on the Democrats' list. Still, it's important that leaders like Leahy insist early on that UAFA be included in comprehensive reform.

    It would have been more encouraging yet if Reid had included gay immigration rights as part of his own immigration reform proposal. Then again, Reid isn't yet a UAFA co-sponsor. That would seem to be a top priority for IE and its allies.

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    January 13, 2009

    'Welcome to the United States of America' (and f**k you)

    Posted by: Andoni

    Welcometotheusa Regular readers of this blog know I was in Thailand over the holidays. Like any person who enters the United States, I had to go through Immigration and Customs (now a part of Homeland Security) upon returning home to the United States.

    The routine is familiar to those who have traveled outside the US. When you you get off the plane you get routed down a one way corridor where you eventually see a huge sign that says "Welcome to the United States of America." This leads to a large open area where dozens of immigration officers wait in individual cubicles to check your credentials to make sure you are eligible to enter the US. As you approach this massive check point area, signs divide you into two lines, one for "citizens and permanent residents," and another one for "visitors."

    Most of the time there is a triage officer in this open area to direct you to the proper line.

    On this trip, I was the first person off the plane and as I hurried up the escalator and down the corridor, I came to the main check point area, and it was entirely void of other travelers. Either we were the first plane of the day, or the passengers from the prior planes had completely cleared out. There was absolutely no one in any of the lines. As I started to get in the line for "citizens and permanent residents," the triage officer intercepted me and directed me to go right over to the officer in booth #29. This booth happened to be on the side of the room designated for "visitors."

    I did exactly what the officer told me to do, I went directly up to the immigration officer in booth 29 who was passing her time chatting with a guard. Upon approaching the immigration officer, she angrily barked at me to retreat and go back and wait for her to call me. I wanted to say, "But I was simply doing what that other officer told me to do," but I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to do anything to delay my getting home.

    So I went back to the line and waited for her to call me. She made me wait for 4 minutes and 30 seconds by my watch. She looked at me several times to show me that she knew I was there, but continued to chit chat with the guard. Other lines were moving, but mine was not.

    When she finally beckoned me to come forward, I presented my US passport, and her first words were, "I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were a citizen or I wouldn't have done that."

    I was flabbergasted. She thought she could treat me that way because she thought I was a foreign visitor instead of a US citizen? Words cannot describe how angry I was.

    Is it official government policy to treat foreign visitors rudely or do these workers simply reflect some of the same anti-immigrant sentiment expressed by the country as a whole? The problem is visitors who get off airplanes are not undocumented (illegal) immigrants. They are people who have proper paperwork to enter legally. You cannot get on an airplane bound for the US without a visa (which means they have already examined your background and intent) or are from a visa waiver country.

    Chris has has written and I have commented on the really bad reputation the United States has in foreign countries for the arrogant way we treat foreign citizens who wish to apply for a visa at one of our embassies to visit the US. I have now found out by accident that the bad treatment doesn't stop at our overseas embassies. If one is successful at gaining a visa to visit the US, this terrible treatment continues even as you enter the US.

    The huge sign may say "Welcome to the United States of America," however the attitude conveyed by some of the immigration officers is, "Fuck you, we don't want you here."

    I am embarrassed for my country. Who do we think we are? This has got to stop.

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    January 02, 2009

    Change I hope I can believe in

    Posted by: Chris

    Letmypartnerstay Thanks in part to you, the readers of this blog, equal immigration rights for same-sex couples finished in 2nd place among all immigration-related proposals in voting on Change.org:

    1. Pass the DREAM Act: 2,219 votes
    2. Equal immigration rights for same-sex couples: 1,011 votes
    3. Citizenship route through marriage for undocumented immigrants: 850 votes

    It's especially heartening to see this modest proposal compete effectively outside the area of gay rights, which was a separate category on the website, which is unaffiliated with Barack Obama's official transition site, Change.gov.

    As I explained in an earlier post, the top three ideas in each category now go into a second round of voting, and the top 10 ideas from that round will be presented to the president after the inauguration and the website's affiliated groups have vowed to lobby for their enactment.

    In the area of gay rights, these three ideas move on to the second round:

    1. Pass marriage equality rights for LGBT couples nationwide: 2,889 votes
    2. Pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act: 877 votes
    3. Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act: 852 votes

    The new Congress is expected to quickly enact the hate crimes bill, which already passed both houses last year. It's noteworthy how much more important relationship recognition was to the voters, dwarfing all other categories. (Enacting a trans-inclusive ENDA came in fourth place, at 779 votes, and does not go on to the second round.)

    Of course the new president and Congress can't simply "pass marriage equality rights," and Obama does not support gay marriage anyway. But they can either repeal DOMA (idea #3) or they can enact federal civil unions, extending all the rights and benefits of marriage under federal law to gay couples who enter into marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

    Stay tuned for the second round of voting, which will begin on Jan. 5.

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    December 26, 2008

    Give us your pedigreed few...

    Posted by: Chris


    In response to my post about the arrogant and counterproductive attitude taken by the Bush administration toward immigration, one reader suggested we replace current policy that prioritizes uniting families with one that admits based on wealth and intellect. In reply, tongue planted firmly in cheek, I wrote:

    Ahh, don't ya just love liberal elitism? I can just see the new Statue of Liberty: "Give me your well-rested and well-fed, Your pedigreed intellectuals yearning for an even higher salary and a better 401(k)..."

    That, in turn, set another reader off:

    Umm, Chris... Austrailia and Canada, among several other countries, are doing exactly that. They are welcoming and encouraging the best minds that this country has to offer, to come to their shores and offering them incentives to do so. The film industry, is but one example among many.

    I just don't follow your logic at times, Chris. In one breath, you make the comment "So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants" and in the next breath, you defend them with your above quoted comment. You appear, more often than not, to be purpose-driven to keep everyone on this blog partitioned and disunited. …

    Taking in all of the "poor, huddled masses" in exchange for all the intelligent, best educated, best minds and productive people, is nothing more than a "brain drain" to the U.S. as a Canadian newspaper article called it. … We call it "social welfare" to make is sound PC, but it is really nothing more a deadly disease that is tearing the fabric of our society apart, destroying the middle class and dividing us into a nation of haves and have-nots.

    When there is no middle-class left to pay taxes, who will be paying for the social welfare programs that this country is rife with? … Depression, hell. We are plummeting into a Third-World status with the speed of a lead balloon. At the rate things are going in this country, we can stick our heads up our asses and kiss it goodbye.

    Popewind Note the overwrought, panicked rhetoric used here, as if our very way of life is threatened if we don't further restrict our borders. It calls to mind "the sky will fall" arguments we regularly hear in opposition to marriage equality, as if human society faces extinction if gay couples can marry. Consider this ditty last week from the pope:

    “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less," Pope Benedict told scores of prelates. "What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”

    There has always been a certain segment of society that wishes to limit freedom or exclude others for fear our "way of life" is threatened. They are pretty much always on the wrong side of the argument, not to mention the wrong side of history, and they show remarkably little confidence that their vaunted "way of life" has enough merit in and of itself to adapt, survive and thrive.

    More to the point, my commenter missed the point of that post, which was not to bemoan "porous American borders" but to point out that U.S. immigration policy makes sneaking across a much more effective means of entry than following the rules.

    I can only shake my head at the cold-hearted sorts who believe the immigration policy of the United States of America, the strongest nation in history and one built almost entirely by immigrants, should be retooled as some sort of corporate recruitment policy. Unless we further tarnish her image with arrogant and restrictive policies, America will always attract those yearning for freedom and opportunity, at all economic levels. 

    The rolls of "social welfare" programs have declined over the years, not increased, and those low-income, (even illegal) immigrants work harder than most Americans and at jobs we don't want. If you want the sky to fall, try actually making all 11 million of them leave! Not to mention that the same immigration policy they advocate now would almost certainly have excluded their own ancestors.

    The U.S. will always attract more than our share of "the best and the brightest" so long as we remain an open, inviting society. We don't need to follow the Aussies, hardly xenophobic-free themselves, who after all are trying to entice folks to move to the opposite side of the planet, or Canadians, trying to overcome a beastly cold climate.

    All in all, it's terribly sad and disappointing to me to see gay folk turn up their noses at others whose lives have been made more difficult by cultural bigotry. Having lived as outcasts, we ought to show more compassion for others on the ouside.

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    December 22, 2008

    How to lose friends and influence

    Posted by: Chris

    USBrazilPride2 Unless you've traveled outside the U.S. and Europe, or have friends from places like Latin America, Africa and Asia, you probably didn't know that one of the biggest black eyes on America internationally is this country's arrogant approach to immigration -- on the temporary kind.

    As in so many other areas, the Bush administration used the horror of 9/11 and the specter of another terrorist attack to make temporary visas, whether for work, study or tourism, much much more difficult to obtain, even from parts of the world with no significant history of terrorism.

    I've been asked more times than I care to count why my partner doesn't just come to the U.S. to visit when I max out my Brazilian tourist visa. Would that it were so easy. For just a taste, check out this story by São Paulo native Jose Guzzardi, who managed to get one of those visas to study at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas:

    I personally invited [one of my best friends, considered part of the family] to come to my graduation from UCA. Even though she had work responsibilities, she made arrangements to come and scheduled her visa interview [with the U.S. Consulate]. …

    After her interview was over, she called me to tell me that the American consulate in Sao Paulo denied her visa because there was not enough evidence that she would come back to Brazil, even though she had already made flight reservations to return one week after my graduation. The person interviewing her rejected to even look at the flight reservations or any of the other documents that she brought with her, which included a letter of recommendation that I had written for her.

    Besides being saddened by not being able to come to my graduation, she was extremely upset with the “arrogance of the American people.” She told me, “I cannot believe how arrogant Americans are… she didn’t even look at my documents before denying my visa.”

    Consulate officers in the Bush State Department make it clear to citizens of most any country outside Western Europe that they are presumed liars who intend to overstay their visas and live in the U.S. indefinitely, until proven otherwise. So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants, but those who follow the rules and come prepared with documentation are treated with disrespect and disdain based on little more than their country of origin.

    The impact -- besides reinforcing an arrogant tone set from the White House down for the last eight years? The loss of billions in tourist tollars. Guzzardi explains:

    The U.S. travel Industry is worth about $713 billion dollars a year and creates 7.5 million jobs across the country. Tourism is one of America’s most important industries, and … a strong tool for public diplomacy and a great way to improve America’s image abroad.

    However, the number of foreign tourists coming to the United States has decreased considerably in the past few years. In 1992, 9% of people who crossed international borders came to the United States. In 2000, this number was reduced to 7.5%, and just last year, it went down to 6%. … One of the major reasons for this decrease is the difficulty for foreigners to obtain tourist visas to come to America. …

    In Brazil, the visa application process is very complex and time-consuming, taking an average of 100 days for someone to obtain a tourist visa. All Brazilians must be personally interviewed for the visa, and they have to pay a $100 dollar, non-refundable fee for the interview. These interviews last for about three minutes, and the interviewer at the consulate must determine whether the applicant is someone who is “eligible” to come to the United States.

    All of this hardship to obtain a visa has directly affected the number of Brazilians visiting the United States. In 1998, 1 million people from Brazil visited America. In 2000, this number was reduced to 750,000 and just last year, it dropped to 500,000. This has a direct effect in the American economy, since Brazilians are big spenders - the average Brazilian spends about $2,000 dollars per trip. This means that the United States just lost $500 million dollars from the Brazilians, who decided to visit Europe instead (the number of Brazilian tourists in Europe increased from 500,000 to two million in the past six years).

    Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton restore respect to citizens of Latin America, Africa, Asia who follow the immigration rules and apply for temporary visas? Hope But Verify.

    P.S. Don't forget to click on the "Change America" badge along the lefthand side of the blog and vote for "Equal Immigration Rights" as a policy priority for the Obama administration. It's still ranked No. 2 among all 121 immigration proposals on Change.org.

    (Pictured is "U.S.-Brazilian Pride" painted by the love of a certain blond blogger's life).

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    December 16, 2008

    Gay immigration rights on Change.org

    Posted by: Chris

    Have you heard about Change.org? It's a MoveOn.org-type liberal-progressive site that despite its name and appearances is affiliated only in spirit with Barack Obama. The site's primary focus has been to develop a "change agenda" for the "change candidate" who's now the "change president-elect":

    Anyone can submit an idea and comment and vote on others. The top 10 rated ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 as the "Top 10 Ideas for America."

    We will then launch a national campaign behind each idea and mobilize the collective energy of the millions of members of Change.org, MySpace, and partner organizations to ensure that each winning idea gets the full consideration of the Obama Administration and Members of Congress.

    Those Top 10 ideas are being selected through two rounds of voting. The top three vote-getters within each of 12 issue categories will survive the first round, which runs through Dec. 31. So far, there are more than 3,150 ideas. Even though there is a category called "Gay Rights," one lonely gay rights idea important to so many of us got tucked away under the "Immigration" category.

    You got it, ranked all the way up at No. 2 among 98 immigration ideas is "Equal Immigration Rights for Binational Couples." Not too shabby, but if you'll take just a minute to add your vote, we can help ensure it survives to the second round of voting.

    (Trailing by only a few votes is a call to allow undocumented immigrants who marry Americans to adjust their illegal status without first returning home or proving "extreme hardship," and another to stop immigration raids. And people say UAFA has an uphill political climb!)

    A video accompanying the post tells the three-hanky story of one young lesbian couple forced to separate for four months before the American half could travel around the world to New Zealand, where her relationship with her partner is recognized for immigration purposes.

    (Sorry but the video does not seem to be loading, at least on my browser.  Anyone else seeing it here?  You can view it here on Current.)  Their story hit home to me for obvious reasons, but I would be interested to know if those not impacted so directly by this issue are emotionally affected as well.

    Another, much shorter video is included as a plea to accompany the "Action": Tell Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act.

    It won't win any Oscars, but the way the couple resorts to hiding their identity is nonetheless visually striking, and enough to make this "Action" the most popular right now on the site. (I haven't quite figured out the difference between an "Idea" and an "Action." It's all a bit confusing, or maybe I'm just too 1.0 to figure it all out.)

    Within the immigration section, there's a powerful open letter to Barack Obama from Rachel Tiven, director of Immigration Equality, that brings up the issue in a way quite personal to the president-elect, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan:

    For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants and the Americans who love them, your personal history holds a special promise. As the child of a binational couple who fell in love despite different citizenships and social stigma, you are uniquely able to understand the struggle of same-sex binational couples. Unlike a straight American, a gay or lesbian U.S. citizen who falls in love with a foreign national has no way to sponsor him or her for immigration benefits — and is then forced to choose between their beloved and their country. You have said you support an end to this cruel choice, an end to forced family separation, and an end to discrimination against LGBT immigrants.

    As you know, the answer to this injustice is the passage of the Uniting American Families Act. Please urge Congress to act on the bill, and insist that it be included in full, fair, and comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

    For those interested in how your's truly explained my vote for the equal immigration rights "Idea," I've included my post to their site in the jump:

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    December 14, 2008

    Our leaders aim too low

    Posted by: Andoni

    Obama_gay_rightsThe Advocate just published 26 open letters to Barack Obama from prominent LGBT Americans advising him on the important issues we face as a community and making suggestions on how he should address them. These letters are fascinating to read.

    Some are from leaders of single issue organizations and they concentrate mainly on their own issue. Others simply repeat the list of narrow items that have been on HRC's agenda for what seems like forever, you know, Hate Crimes, ENDA, etc. A few push Obama beyond what he has volunteered to give us, such as Evan Wolfson's appeal for full marriage equality.

    My favorite four letters cite the inequities in U.S. immigration laws for gay and lesbian citizens, a subject dear to my heart, and specifically ask Obama to remedy this situation by ushering through Congress the Uniting American Families Act or recognizing our relationships for immigration. These letters are from Rachel Tiven, Vestal McIntyre, Jim Buzinski, and Lorri Jean.  

    But what struck me most about these letters was how timid the ones from the people we consider our national leaders are. In particular, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin simply asks for Hate Crimes legislation, a T inclusive ENDA, domestic partnership for federal employees (for federal workers only and only a very few of those 1200 federal benefits), and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." No great vision.

    Joe Solmonese , President of the Human Rights Campaign doesn't suggest anything, he simply offers that HRC will work with the president.

    And none of these leaders picks up on a monumental issue Barack Obama has put in writing that he would like to give us.....it's right there in his Agenda items under Civil Rights on his webpage and is called the The Obama-Biden Plan. Barack says that we need to

    ...enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions.

    This is powerful stuff folks. If we pass this legislation, it would bring more gays rights to more Americans than all the other items on HRC's list combined. This legislation means that if a gay couple has a legally-recognzied union (any couple can go to VT to get civil unioned or MA to get married - both legally recognized unions), the federal goverment would then grant you those 1200 federal benefits that married opposite sex couples have. This is seismic. And recognition of our relationships has an approval rating of 55-66% as long as you don't call it marriage. This could be easier to pass than the controversial T inclusive ENDA.

    Barack Obama is proposing one great piece of legislation here, yet none of our leaders seems to have noticed. None of our national organizations have picked up on this item on his agenda to begin working on it with him; none of our Congressional leaders are writing such a bill that the president would welcome.

    It's time to stop thinking about getting our rights one small sliver at a time. It's time to start thinking bigger and grander than most of our leaders and national organizations are doing.

    It's mind boggling that none of our leaders in Congress or our national organizations seem to have realized the full potential of what Obama is proposing. If passed this legislation would bring more equality, more happiness to more LGB Americans than any other piece of legislation I can think of.

    The letters in the Advocate indicate to me that most of our leaders are aiming too low and aren't fully listening to Obama to take advantage of all that he is offering.

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    November 02, 2008

    Another year, another separation

    Posted by: Chris

    Rioaptovisto Hello there, dear blog readers. I know it has been a good long time since I was keeping up with regular blogging duties, and a number of you have even expressed concern about how I'm doing. Well, the honest answer is that I've been better. Regular readers know that the year 2008 has been a very difficult year for me personally, and the last couple of weeks have unfortunately brought a new challenge.

    You may remember that around this time last year, my partner and I moved to Buenos Aires for three months because I had used up the 180 days I am allowed to be in Brazil each year under my tourist visa. This time around, after a lot of thinking and discussing and soul-searching, we've decided we are going to have to be separated for the last two months of the calendar.

    So this week I'll be headed back to the U.S., and meu bebezinho will be headed back to his hometown to be with his familiy. After almost four years together and more than two years of living in limbo down here, the prospect of being separated for two long months has been particularly discouraging, even disheartening, for us.

    But endure it we must, and after a whirlwind week or so of winding up our apartment rental and moving things into storage, it's time once again for us to say "goodbye" -- if only temporarily.

    I will arrive back home just in time to cast my vote in the presidential election, something I hope each and every one of you will be doing as well, if you haven't already.

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    August 27, 2008

    Don't hold your breath for Biden

    Posted by: Chris

    Biden Those looking to Barack Obama's vice presidential pick for some reassurance that the presidential nominee's strongly supportive gay rights talk will translate into legislative walk once in office will find little of either in running mate Joe Biden, the longtime Delaware senator.

    The selection of Biden was immediately praised by gay and trans groups in Washington and by activists from his home state, but the good senator's record doesn't live up to such laudatory rhetoric. In fact, Joe Biden was without question dead last on issues important to LGBT voters among the eight Democrats who ran for president this year.

    As usual, the Human Rights Campaign did the Democratic Party's bidding, "hailing" Biden as "a proven and effective advocate for fairness and equality," according to HRC president Joe Solmonese, whose "support and understanding has been unwavering."

    "Unwavering"? HRC's own congressional report cards tell a very different story. Biden scored "unwavering" (i.e. "100") only one time in the decade, and has trended downward in recent years, from 89 ('97-'98), 86 ('99-'00), 100 ('01-'02) to 63 ('03-'04), and 78 ('05-'06). Do you know any parents or teachers who would look at report cards like that and pronounce those grades an "unwavering" success?

    Neither Biden nor Obama supports same-sex marriage, of course, but Biden's opposition runs much deeper and is much more troubling. Obama opposed the passage of the notorious Defense of Marriage Act, as did John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago.  Not Joe Biden. He sided with Republicans to enact DOMA into law, and has never once said publicly that he regrets his vote or favors a full or even partial repeal.

    Biden's position on DOMA and other important issues remains a mystery in part because he was one of only two Democratic presidential hopefuls who chose to skip last fall's televised forum on gay issues sponsored by HRC and Logo. He claimed to have a "scheduling conflict" but his campaign website showed no appearances scheduled for the day of the forum.

    Rather than consider that poor choice an example of "wavering," Solmonese points to the recent repeal of the discriminatory HIV travel and immigration ban as proof of "the type of leadership we can expect from Senator Biden on the issues important to our community."

    Let's hope not. Solmonese credits Biden's work as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as important to passage of the repeal, but really it was the least that Biden could do. After all, he was one of those who voted in favor of the original Helms Amendment back in 1988 that put HIV on the list of communicable diseases that could get you barred from entering the country.

    When Louis Sullivan, the health secretary under Republican President George H.W. Bush, tried to take HIV off the list back in 1992, Joe Biden was one of only a handful of Democrats who broke ranks to support a Republican amendment that made the ban on HIV tourists and immigrants a matter of statute.

    The "wavering" doesn't stop there, on either HIV or immigration. Biden has declined to date to sponsor the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which would allow states to use Medicaid money to help low-income folks who have HIV but not full-blown AIDS. When HRC asked the Democrats running for president to say "yes" or "no" about whether they support the bill, Biden was alone among the eight in dodging the question.

    On immigration, Biden has not only declined to co-sponsor the Uniting American Familes Act, legislation that extends to gay Americans the right to sponsor foreign partners for citizenship, his only public statement on the issue is so vague that's impossible to tell for sure which way he'd "waver" if it came to a vote.

    Mara Keisling, who heads up the National Center for Transgender Equality, also cut Biden a whole lot of slack, saying: "We have reason to think he's very positive on all LGBT issues."

    "All LGBT issues"? The Delaware senator was very, very late among Democratic senators to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, back when it only protected "sexual orientation." Biden waited more than five years after ENDA was first introduced and finally signed on only after some thirty-four of his party colleagues -- and even three Republicans! -- had already done so. Is this the "leadership" HRC says "our entire community can be proud of"?

    The HRC candidate questionnaire asked each of the Democrats running for president if they would "support and work for passage" of the new version of ENDA that prohibits protects both "sexual orientation and gender identity," Biden responded only that he supports outlawing bias based on sexual orientation, making him one of only two candidates to dodge the question.

    Despite a lot of lazy fact-gathering on the blogosphere, there’s no clear evidence Biden favors adding transgender protections to ENDA. Aren't we supposed to care about that?

    None of this is to suggest that Biden is actually anti-gay or has a record anything comparable to John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who is a gay rights nightmare. Biden has voted in favor of gay workplace rights, hate crime laws, against a federal marriage amendment and is solid on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He's even said some encouraging things on the campaign trail about civil unions and the inevitability of gay marriage.

    But LGBT voters deserve to know that the real Joe Biden bears little resemblance to the steadfast champion portrayed by the groups in Washington that supposedly advocate for our equality. If they've "pinkwashed" his record simply because an Obama-Biden administration would be far and away superior to a McCain-[fill in the blank] administration, then fair enough -- say so.

    Don't mislead gay voters by lying about Biden's mediocre record because it only signals to Democrats (yet again) that something way less than a full loaf of equality will keep our stomachs from grumbling.

    For more information about Joe Biden's position on gay rights:

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    July 18, 2008

    A tale of 2 immigration systems

    Posted by: Andoni


    How can a gay HIV positive man deported from the United States in January end up in the Netherlands with the equivalent of their “green card” in less than 6 months? The answer is that the Dutch have a fair, sane, and just immigration system -- and the US does not.

    I would like to tell you the story of my friend, whom I’ll call Pedro – and you will realize why I use the pseudonym as you read on.

    Pedro came to the US legally on an H1B1 visa. It was his intention to work, apply for a permanent residence visa (green card) and eventually become a US citizen.

    During his stay, he discovered that he had contracted HIV. Because of the HIV ban inserted into US law by now deceased Senator Jesse Helms, Pedro was ineligible to make the natural progression from an H1B visa to a green card. (Thank God, this law is on the way to being repealed as reported by Andrew Sullivan, but it was too late for Pedro.)

    Pedro was employed by a law firm and his duties required him to appear in court a lot, interact with lots of officials at the courthouse, including judges. His work product was excellent and he was well loved by all with whom he interacted. When the time on his visa ran out, he would have to leave the country because he knew he would be rejected for a green card because of his HIV status. Although he had been in a relationship, that was not a path for him to stay in the US, because the US does not recognize same sex couples for immigration (or anything for that matter). Pretty much everyone he worked with or had contact with was very upset that he was going to have to leave the US.

    The heads of the law firm (lawyers) hatched a plan to arrange for Pedro to marry a female employee of the firm so he could stay. (Note this is highly illegal and people go to jail for this type of fraud.) The HIV ban allows a waiver for spouses of the heterosexual variety. Pedro’s same sex relationship with a US citizen was worth nothing in the eyes of immigration, but if he married a woman, it would not only grease the path to a green card, but also overcome the HIV barrier as well, because of an HIV waiver for opposite sex spouses.

    Because the wedding was scheduled, the law firm did not make any arrangement for Pedro’s replacement. The interesting thing is that a lot of people, including those at the court house, were aware of the impending marriage and the reason for it, and voiced no fraud concerns. In fact they were supportive. This is a prime example of a double standard between those immigrants you know personally and like --- versus some unknown illegal immigrant working in a meat plant in Kansas.

    In the end and to his credit, Pedro could not go through with the fraudulent marriage. He left the US on time and legally.

    While Pedro was in his home country looking for employment his old law firm kept calling him to try to get him back because they were having a hard time getting along without his specialized talent. I won’t go into the details of who did what or how it happened, but after a few months, Pedro returned the US on a tourist visa in order to work for his old company, and to help find and train a replacement. Again, this is highly illegal.

    During this temporary period of once again working for his old firm, Pedro met and fell in love with Peter, a Dutch citizen. They made plans for Pedro to immigrate to the Netherlands to be together as a same sex couple once Pedro finished training the new employee. Before this was able to happen however, a few weeks before he planned to leave permanently, Pedro was found out and deported (again, details left out to protect a lot of people).

    So how fast can a person who could not get residency in the US either based on his same sex relationship or on his job talents (he was disqualified based on his HIV status) get a green card in Holland? Here’s how fast:

    After deportation to his home country in January, Pedro studied for a Dutch language and culture exam which he took and passed in February. In April he received his entry visa to join his partner in the Netherlands. Once united with Peter in Holland, they formed a civil partnership (the Dutch can choose marriage or partnership – both yield immigration benefits) and in July he received a one year visa. After one year he gets a 5 year visa. However, after only 3 of those 5 years he can choose to become a Dutch citizen.

    This is so amazing compared to how he was treated in the United States. Basically, the Dutch (as well as a lot of the EU) treat same sex couples the same as opposite sex couples.

    I spoke with Pedro the other day to congratulate him on his green card. He wanted everyone to know that in the Netherlands it was illegal for them to ask about his HIV status. The only health question he had to answer was with respect to tuberculosis. And that question was simply a “we are going to test you for TB and if you test positive, you have to consent now that you agree to be treated before you can get your visa.” How sane! How rooted in real medical science!

    I dream of the day that the United States starts granting its gay citizens the same rights that other Western Democracies are granting theirs.

    I’m also sorry Pedro did not experience the day that the US stopped discriminating against HIV positive people for immigration. But I’m comforted that he is happy and with a wonderful partner living in the Netherlands – a country that treats his relationship better than our country treats our gay relationships.

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    July 07, 2008

    Obama on same sex immigration

    Posted by: Andoni

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Barackobamagrins Throughout the primary season I was angry that no gay reporter or gay person asked either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama a question about same sex immigration, the issue I care about most.

    As a result, I decided to take things into my own hands. I would find a way to personally lobby the Democratic nominee how important this issue is for me and tens of thousands of others in the gay community. That opportunity arose tonight in Atlanta at an Obama fundraiser.

    I attended the Obama VIP reception which entailed a photo with Barack and maybe the possibility of 10 seconds chat time while the photo was being taken. I consulted Rachel Tiven of Immigration Equality for her suggestion as to what the best 10 second bite would be. She suggested to be as emotional as possible and gave me, “I have to choose between the love of my life and my country because I am gay. Please support immigration rights for gay and lesbian families.”

    I practiced this line over and over. However, when my moment came, I flubbed my lines. I don’t know exactly what I said, but I did manage to get out gay and immigration --- and then I choked up. It was a real emotional choke up, not an act, and not the script. However, I said enough for Obama to know what I was talking about.  He put his arm around me and in a very comforting way said, “I know, I know.”

    It was apparent that he knew this issue well. He took some time to explain that same sex immigration is going to be a very difficult one because it combines two of the most controversial issues Congress faces, gay rights and immigration. (I heard this from Barney Frank two years ago as well.) Obama also said that to tackle it we were going to have to establish a vehicle to recognize gay couples. I think we both said “civil unions” simultaneously -- me as a question, he as a statement.

    Civil unions could be a possible vehicle. Then a stand-alone bill limited to same sex immigration rights, similar to the Uniting Americans Family Act could work. He seemed to imply that without that vehicle, it wouldn’t work. More broadly, if DOMA is repealed, then granting federal benefits to couples who are civil unioned (or married, although he didn’t say married) would realize immigration rights. Immigration is one of those 1200 federal benefits he so often says he wants to grant gay couples in civil unions.

    He ended by wanting me to know that the road for a solution to same sex immigration is a difficult one but that he would not forget about our conversation or the issue once he got into office.

    I don’t know exactly how much time I spent talking with Barack Obama, but it was at least a minute or two, far more than the 10 seconds I expected. And if the handlers hadn’t escorted me along, I could have asked a dozen follow up questions.

    I left the event with a good feeling that he understood my problem and would work hard to fix it as soon as it could politically possibly be fixed.

    The photo above is one taken by a friend with my camera when Barack was working the crowd…..and shaking my hand. The official photo from the professional photographer won’t be ready for a week or so.

    UPDATE: And here is a photo I just received of Barack Obama comforting me as I got all emotional telling him that I have to choose between the love of my life .....and my country. I think he really got it.

    As an aside, what struck me most about Obama, was how very thin he was. He is much much leaner in person than he appears on TV--athletically lean, not sickly lean.



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    June 25, 2008

    The problem with Real ID

    Posted by: Andoni

    When I related the story of the Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico going wild to find illegal immigrants in "That 5 a. m. bang on the door" several of you responded that this is the reason we need to move forward quickly with “Real ID.”

    Let me tell you, I ran face to face into Real ID today and it isn’t a pretty site.

    Today I accompanied a foreign student, here legally, who wanted to get a state ID so he doesn’t have to carry his passport everywhere he goes. Here is how you get a state id. First you have to get a social security number. However, because he is not eligible for a social security number, he has to apply for a social security number and receive a “denial letter” saying he can’t have a social security number. With the social security denial letter, he has to go to the state drivers licensing office (this is whether he simply wants an ID or a drivers license) and show them the denial letter. He also have to bring a ton of documents to prove who he is and that he is here legally: passport, I-94, I-20, and utility bills and bank statements tying you to the address you claim.

    After several hours of waiting in lines, things went well, until the very end. That is when the bureaucrat went to the Homeland Security new database called SAVE (started in January) to verify the information. That’s when she found that Homeland Security had entered his birthday into their database incorrectly. All the other documents had the same correct birthday, but Homeland Security had something different. Everything else matched, passport numbers, I-94 numbers, etc., but because the manually entered birthday did not match, he was stamped DENIED.

    It’s quite possible that if I were not standing next to him, speaking good English and wearing a T-shirt with an American flag, they might have carried him away to detention.

    They gave him a letter with instructions on what to do next. Following the instructions he called the 888 number on the letter to reach the proper department within Homeland Security but the number had been disconnected. I called my Congressman’s office and got the correct number. After calling Homeland Security, we were on hold for 30 minutes. After going through several people, they told us that the only way to correct the database was to appear in person at a Homeland Security Office, but the appointment had to be made online. This person then proceeded to give me the webpage address to make the appointment. It was the wrong url address. After several tries of all the permutations, I did a Google search and found the correct url. Unfortunately the first appointment available was over a month away.

    I am quite angry over what happened. The error was on the part of Homeland Security, but it is the person who suffers. Common sense would tell you that it was a simple data entry error, but the victim is the one who has to go out of his way to correct it. This is also an example of being presumed guilty, until you can prove your innocence.

    I’m for Real ID, but I am not for incompetence. If this system is to work, bureaucrats cannot be making these kinds of errors.

    In a similar vein, there is legislation in the works that would force employers to fire any employee whose social security number does not match the one in the national database. Experts say that up to 20% of the social security database has errors. If my experience today in happens with an obvious minor typo error is any indication of the future, hundreds of thousands of legal workers will be fired and not be able to clear things up in time to save themselves from the dire consequences that come from losing your job and not being able to work.

    I will keep you posted on the situation I described today, but I am not happy. This could turn out to be like the Do Not Fly List, where it is nearly impossible to correct the government’s error. I guess I should be thankful we discovered this problem on the new database ourselves. Had we not discovered it, it’s possible the immigration officer at the airport would have discovered it on this person’s next entry to the United States, and deported him on the spot. These officers have a history of denying entry for the most minor reason.

    Real ID might be a good idea in theory, but the evidence I saw today makes me think that at the moment it will do more harm than good. Before we can have Real ID we have to have our databases as near to 100% correct as possible and have in place a mechanism where errors can be quickly and easily corrected.

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    June 20, 2008

    Jon Stewart messes up his vows

    Posted by: Chris

    The "Daily Show" skewering was just about as you'd expect in its "coverage" of the first same-sex marriages in California. My favorite was when Jon Stewart noted that Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, the first gay couple to wed in L.A., had a traditional Jewish ceremony -- and then imagined what it would be like for children to be raised by two Jewish moms.

    That good fun along with the usual lampooning of conservatives and a funny bit on Sulu fencing shirtless can be found in the video after the jump.

    But following Jon Stewart's opening riff, he pivoted to a conversation with correspondent John Oliver, dressed in a tux, who proudly announced he had gone "gay for America," getting married to a man to resolve his own visa issues and remain in the U.S. It turns out the joke's on him because his groom, "Daily Show" regular Jason Jones, is Canadian and likewise green-card minded.

    Well, actually fellas, the joke's on us -- us being the thousands of gay Americans in relationships with foreign citizens. Not only are jokes on national television about fake gay marriages to get green cards decidedly unhelpful to our cause, they're also a gross distortion of reality. As we know all too well, marriage licenses issued to gay Americans and their spouses in California, Massachusetts, Canada or anywhere else have absolutely no effect on our spouses' immigration rights because they are completely unrecognized by the U.S. federal government. (In fact, they could get a partner on a temporary visa deported because it's evidence they intend to live here long term.)

    All that's due, of course, to the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- authored back in 1996 by Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr, voted for by would-be Democratic veep Sam Nunn and GOP presidential nominee John McCain, defended to this day by former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and signed into law by her husband.

    We "love exiles" know all too well that our partners will have no legal standing for immigration purposes based upon our relationships until DOMA is either repealed or struck down -- and Log Cabin pal McCain has said he'll back an amendment to the U.S. constitution banning gay marriage if the latter (or no doubt the former) should happen.

    Or, Congress could enact the Uniting American Families Act, which gets around the marriage issue by allowing gay Americans in committed, long-term relationships to sponsor our partners for U.S. residence without requiring a marriage license. Of course, all those "Daily Show" only make that fight more difficult by suggesting straight foreigners will game the system by faking gay relationships for U.S. visas.

    The reality is that most heterosexuals would it a lot easier and more palatable to fake a straight relationship, but we also know that reality is only an infrequent visitor to debates over gay rights and immigration -- much less the two together.

    So thanks, Jon and Colin. With friends like you, who needs James (Dobson) and Pat (Robertson)?

    Hat tip: Andoni

    (Don't forget -- Jon Stewart's truly funny riff on California gay marriage follows after the jump.)

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    June 03, 2008

    Sullivan on the "Gay Diaspora"

    Posted by: Kevin

    Airplanedeparting Urged on by what one reader called a "gaping hole" in the New York Times' coverage of the same-sex marriage issue in New York, Andrew Sullivan has been sharing reader mail on how the California marriage decision, and subsequent actions by New York Gov. David Paterson on gay marriage, has raised the hopes and inflamed the anguish of families affected by bi-national gay relationships that are denied U.S. federal legal recognition of any kind by the Defense of Marriage Act.  (As is well-known to readers of this blog, Chris and I fall into that category of families as well, as we both were forced to move to Brazil to be with our partners.)

    A sample:

    Heterosexual citizens have the right to marry foreign partners and bring them legally into the country with the right to live and work and even seek citizenship. Homosexual citizens don't have that right; they must either choose another citizen as a partner or leave the country in order to be with their foreign partners. I know this issue intimately because both my children have foreign partners. My heterosexual daughter was able to marry and give her foreign partner the right to live here. My homosexual son can't do that, and his partner isn't even allowed to enter the U.S., so he has no choice but to live in his partner's country. The people who claim to be protecting families are not doing anything to protect mine. Instead, they've torn it apart. I wish the Times would cover that aspect of the gay marriage issue because there are thousands of American families affected by it," - a mother of a gay son, commenting on the story on Governor David Paterson's decision to treat gay citizens married in other states no differently than straight ones.

    I've written about this on my own blog, and Chris has championed the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign born partners to immigrate legally to the United States.  We do what we can.  But once you make the decision to spend your life with someone (i.e. marry them, whether it's recognized or not as legal), you jump with both feet off the curb and you don't look back.  Sometimes I feel that if I put too much energy into fighting to change the policies of the United States, I'd not be tending to my life as it is today, and my relationship would suffer needlessly.  You end up putting your life first; it's why you did all this in the first place.  And it makes you an inconvenient player in the political realm.

    Reading the excerpts of Andrew's reader mail has been an emotional experience.  It's mostly because (and I'm surprised to realize this) most of us who live this life in exile don't spend a lot of time talking to each other about how hard it can be at times being separated from home.  We tend to focus on adapting to life out here instead.  You do your best when you're on the phone (or on Skype) with family and friends back in the U.S. to focus on the good stuff, and share the good news.  You try to buck yourself up and focus on the adventure of it all, living abroad and adapting to a new culture and a new way of life.  You also wake up to the aspects of life in the United States that are actually not so great after all- simply because (A) you can see them from far away, and (B) you want to do everything you can to avoid missing home too much.  When you live abroad, you live abroad.  Life in your new home affects you.  You're not who you were before.

    But you can't help but hear in the voices of those closest to you back in the U.S. that there is a lingering hope that something will happen that will allow you to come back.  It's part of being loved.  It's part of being in a family.  It's always floating around the phone call, or in-between the lines of the email.

    Some of us don't have much family at home, or a family that has disowned our sexuality and, therefore, our relationship.  That rarely makes the move any easier, because gay Americans often have a "chosen" family, a support network of friends that become vital to our happiness and emotional well-being.  I can say that Chris and I, and many of the Americans I know in love-exile around the world, are incredibly privileged and lucky that we have the resources to go home to visit even once a year.  Many immigrants to the United States often don't have that option.  Both of my parents are in good health, and have visited me here once.  I could imagine what this life would be like if one of them was ill when I had to make my decision.  In any case, when you go home to visit your friends or your family, there is this distinct sense you get with every trip that life has just gone on without you, and you're really not part of that world anymore.  It's unsettling, but you have to accept it.

    The policy implications of all this are quite obvious, as Andrew's postings point out so well.  Families and lives are being terribly impacted, but love is still winning out.  John McCain is a strong supporter of immigration reform and has shown a willingness to buck his party's hardliners on the subject.  If a Democratic Congress were to send him a reform bill with UAFA inserted into it, I have to wonder whether he'd sign it.  I hope he would. Two recent television appearances only muddied the waters.

    It's no comfort that Senator Hillary Clinton has not lifted a finger on this issue in the Senate, nor seems ready to do so when she limps back there in tatters from her loss to Barack Obama in the nomination fight.   So much for all that gay money.  And Obama has said he opposes UAFA because it would open the door to immigration fraud, betraying a stupefying ignorance of the issue.  He should read Andrew's blog.  He should talk to my mom.

    But no matter what happens back home, we live our lives out here.  And the longer the United States retains the Defense of Marriage Act as law, the more likely that time will end up healing over the wound we got in the split with our native country, I'm afraid, and much of what we have to offer the world will largely, and happily, find its way to other horizons. 

    I, like many, refuse to regret the greatest thing to ever happen to me, no matter what it cost me.  (Am I supposed to wake up in tears every morning in order to please some activists back home?)  It doesn't mean I am not a patriot, or that it isn't really hard to be separated from the whole life I knew until a year ago.  My grandfather was Irish to the core until his death, but when he arrived on American shores he never set foot on Irish soil again.  It was the Irish condition that sent him away, simply put.  He didn't live long enough to see things change.  Did he think this to be a tragedy in 1975 when he lay on his deathbed?  I think not.  How will I feel on mine?  Who knows.  I refuse to decide now.

    It is, however, up to the United States to decide whether it will regret losing all of us.

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    April 17, 2008

    Big gay immigration news from Brazil

    Posted by: Chris

    Lula Some potentially great news out of Brazil this week. The center-left government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -- known here as Presidente Lula --  has announced a legislative proposal that would extend to gay Brazilians the same right straight Brazilians have to sponsor foreign partners for temporary or permanent resident visas. It's a Brazilian UAFA (Uniting American Families Act), if you will.

    The proposed law would simply remove any distinction of sex from existing provisions that allow Brazilians to sponsor foreign partners. In reality, Brazil is already one of two-dozen countries that already allow gay citizens to sponsor foreign partners for residence, but that right is based entirely on vulnerable judge-made law.

    As a result, the process is long, cumbersome and expensive. Presumably this new legislative right would streamline the process and reduce the cost, although it would still require review of each request on a case by case basis.

    My partner and I have thus far chosen not to follow that route, partly due to the expense and partly because our goal is to live together in the U.S. But if this proposal becomes law, and it should given Lula's backing, we could at least have a stable life here until we find a way back home to the States.

    The article (in Portuguese) is in the jump to this post.

    For more about gay immigration issues, click here.

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    April 03, 2008

    Hillary's latest gay press chat

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    P1clintonhillary Hillary Clinton has once again granted an interview with the GLBT press, and the Philadelphia Gay News has done everything it could to reward her for the effort -- from a redesigned website that features the interview before the rest of the site, to a front page print edition that includes a segment of blank white space to reflect Barack Obama's failure to face questioning.

    Unfortunately, like the Blade and Gay People's Chron before it, PGN did not come to the table with completely clean hands. The interview -- and all the website and print trimmings -- were the handiwork of PGN publisher Mark Segal, who has already donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. Has the gay press joined Fox et al in completely abandoning the idea of neutrality? At least the Blade editor's endorsement was public record; Segal doesn't disclose his Clinton ties to readers.

    Pgn_obama The interview itself makes little news, asking two or three different ways whether gay couples should get equal federal legal recognition, something Clinton (and Obama) has been on record supporting for almost a year now. I was pleased to see that one of those repetitive questions was pegged to immigration rights, to which she responded:

    I think that that’s one of the biggest problems that we’ve got to contend with. Even states that have civil unions, domestic partnerships or even marriage laws are running into roadblocks with the federal government when it comes to federal benefits and privileges. Of course, immigration is a federal responsibility and I am going to do everything I can to eliminate any disparities in any benefits or rights under our law at the federal level so that all people will have available to them every right as an American citizen that they should, and that would include immigration law.

    There was no follow-up about why, if she feels that way, that Clinton (like Obama) has failed to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would do just that. Despite all the questions about federal recognition, Segal and his co-questioner also failed to ask why Clinton supports repealing only half of the Defense of Marriage Act, when Obama supports full repeal. Considering it's the only actual policy difference between the two on gay rights, the omission is pretty glaring.

    Several of the questions displayed a poor understanding of the law, like asking if she could simply wave away "Don't Ask Don't Tell" with an executive order or a "signing statement." No, she explained patiently.

    In a humorous aside, Hillary backed away from promising she would march in a Gay Pride parade as president -- do we really still crave affirmation that much? -- blaming it on the Secret Service, as if the Commander in Chief answers to them. The questioner praises her for marching in our parades as First Lady, though she only did so once -- in June 2000 in New York City -- when she was kneedeep in her campaign for the U.S. Senate there.

    The highlight of the interview, and the only real news, was an excellent question about what Clinton would do as president in response to governments -- from allies like Egypt and Iraq to enemies like Iran -- that treat their own gay populations brutally. Her answer was strong:

    I would be very strongly outspoken about this and it would be part of American foreign policy. There are a number of gross human-rights abuses that countries engage in with whom we have relations and we have to be really vigilant and outspoken in our total repudiation of those kinds of actions and do everything we can, including using our leverage on matters such as aid, to change the behavior so we can try to prevent such atrocities from happening.

    The State Department already documents human rights abuses against gays around the world and it is the basis for asylum claims under existing law. But a proactive president like Clinton describes could be of incalculable benefit to gays abroad.


    Mark Segal, the PGN publisher, is digging himself deeper into the credibility hole.  Here's an exchange of an interview he gave to the Philly Daily Examiner:

    You guys seem to really be behind Hilary …
    I did not say we are behind Hilary. I’m personally on the fence. The space was left open to show that we are willing to feature him equally.

    You could cut the suspense with the knife, trying to figure out who Segal/PGN will endorse -- there is no separation between editorial and sales since Segal runs roughshod over both. The only real question is whether he'll come clean with readers that all his shenanigans this week were behind a ruse of objectivity, given his previous $1,000 donation.

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    March 28, 2008

    Apology accepted

    Posted by: Chris

    Petersprigg Here's something you don't see every day.

    Remember that outrageous quote from Peter Sprigg, policy VP at the Family Research Council, about why they oppose immigration rights for gay Americans?:

    I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.

    I'll take a smidgen of credit, ever so humbly, for being the first to publicize that whopper on the blogosphere. Since then, Sprigg has shown up on dozens of blogs and websites for gay rights organizations.

    Now, lo and behold, he taking it all back:

    In response to a question regarding bi-national same-sex couples who are separated by an international border, I used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God. I apologize for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace.

    That's refreshing, especially his professed wilingness to at least see the human toll that legal inequality can take. Sure it might not be genuine, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I only wish Sprigg and his fellow travelers would pause long enough to consider what might have motivated that original quote, and whether causing pain and heartache in the lives of gay Americans, his fellow Americans, is really what Jesus would do.

    Sprigg goes on to say that FRC opposes the Uniting American Families Act because, "FRC does not believe that homosexual relationships are the equivalent of marriage." Fair enough, but why should that preclude any legal recognition at all for same-sex couples? If Sprigg really respects our dignity, he would see there's no harm in letting us be together with the one we love.

    (H/t: Immigration Equality)

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    March 20, 2008

    Say whaaaa?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.


    "I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society."

    That's how Peter Sprigg, vice president of policy at the Family Research Council, explained the conservative group's opposition to the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans the same right straight Americans have to sponsor a foreign partner for citizenship here.

    Just in case you wondered…

    (Video here; Spriggs quotes at 1:37)


    Immigration Equality linked to this post earlier today, and later the group's director Rachel Tiven issued this statement:

    Unfortunately, the Family Research Council's preference to export lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender (LGBT) Americans prevails. This policy continues to separate people who love each other, but of course Mr. Sprigg's group doesn't care about that. 

    I hope, however, that the Family Research Council realizes that when we 'export homosexuals' we also export talented men and women who have made incredible contributions to this country and its economy - THAT is 'destructive to society'.   LGBT Americans who are forced into exile from this country are researchers for companies like GE and Pfizer, nurses in the Midwest, teachers in our inner cities and sons and daughters of aging parents who depend on them for care.

    The Family Research Council might not care about our families but current immigration laws are 'destructive' to America and I hope that is something they do care about.

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    March 11, 2008

    Testing Britain's heart and head on gay rights

    Posted by: Kevin

    Gayhangingiran A European government is about to be tested on how committed it really is to a gay person's most fundamental rights.  This test of Britain's Labour government could take on a bigger significance - whether the liberal political and cultural traditions of Europe will truly resist the murderous onslaught of radical Islam when it comes to us gays, or simply throw in the towel.

    A 19-year old gay Iranian citizen who was studying English in Britain in 2006 learned that his boyfriend back in Iran had been arrested, charged with sodomy and hanged by Iranian authorities.  His family told CNN that they were then visited by police, who were holding an arrest warrant for their young relative.  He immediately applied for asylum in Britain, fearing for his life.  His claim was denied, and a few days before he expected to be deported back to Iran, he fled Britain in a panic and is now in a Dutch detention center awaiting his fate.

    Gay rights activists in Iran, and the British Home Office as well, have said they tried to investigate the gay teenager's claims but were unable to confirm them.  The Iranian activists say they did manage to locate the executed boyfriend's family, but none would talk to them.

    But the young asylum seeker's family is talking.  His uncle lives in Britain and is standing by his nephew forcefully, confirming all the claims that "Mehdi" (not his real name) is making, and adding that the father has "disowned his son for the shame that he has brought on the family."

    It should not be any surprise that the claims are hard to confirm.  When people are executed for something in gruesome public hangings, why would anyone on the street in Iran dare speak for the accused?  But even if Mehdi's story is wholly true or not, the galling part of this story has been what both the Iranian regime and the British government have said in response.

    For its part, the Iranian embassy in London told CNN they have "no knowledge" of Mehdi's case, despite its high international media profile.  This sounded eerily similar to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement last year at Columbia University: "In Iran, we have no homosexuals."  Despite boastful public announcements by Iranian authorities (including from an Iranian government minister on a visit to Britain, no less) that gays are being executed in that country "for the crime of homosexuality", and that Iranian human rights activists report that over 4,000 homosexuals have been executed by the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and the chilling photographic evidence [LINK WARNING: Graphic content] of the public hanging of two gay teenagers in 2005, the butchers running Iran shrug and smirk and play dumb, hoping no one will call them on their subhuman beliefs.

    But when it comes to flying in the face of overwhelming evidence apart from the Mehdi case, the British Home Office's reaction was even more appalling in its sweep:

    "...although homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, [the Home Office] does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely for their sexuality."

    This official statement read on the air by CNN today is part of an "outrageous and shameful" pattern by the Labour government on gay asylum cases, says British gay activist Peter Tatchell of the group Outrage!, which seems to be rather alone among most European direct-action gay groups in raising the profile of official government persecution of homosexuals in countries which Europe does business with, like Iran and Russia.  Tatchell says that the British government is putting the reduction of asylum cases above their merits, and thereby is less likely to look deeply enough into a case like Mehdi's.

    Whether the facts around Mehdi's claims are proven true or not -- either with new revelations, or in the form of a photo of Mehdi hanging by his neck in Iran -- there is one very clear, fundamental fact that the British government concedes:  homosexuality is a crime.  There is another fact that, despite their astounding double-speak, they cannot refute:  that crime is being punished with death sentences, and such practices have been staunchly defended by an Iranian official on British soil.

    Will the British public, knowing what they know, agree to send Iranian gays back to Iran?  If so, it casts a dark pall over that nation's soul at this moment in history.

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    March 10, 2008

    Marriage mischief of a different sort

    Posted by: Andoni

    Montanamarriagecert I was struck by today’s New York Times article on Montana's “double proxy” marriages, in which both husband and wife are absent from the ceremony and use stand-ins. Montana is the only state in the union that permits double proxy marriages, which not surprisingly have spawned a cottage industry of lawyers and "professional stand ins."

    As someone in a relationship with a foreign partner, my constant worry is how I can arrange our lives so that my partner will be able to live here permanently in the U.S. and get a green card.

    One route I keep in the back of my mind is to marry him, should Congress repeal the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, including for immigration rights. If that happens and my partner happens to be in the U.S., we could quickly move to Massachusetts and get married.

    But if DOMA is repealed after my partner’s visa expires and he is out of the country, what happens? Could I obtain a "single proxy marriage" because I’m here and he’s overseas? The sad news is that only four states allow single proxy marriages -– California, Colorado, Texas and Montana -- and even in these states the marriages are restricted to military personnel serving in combat zones.

    So even though my interest was piqued by this article as a possible route for my partner and me to marry if we become separated, after studying proxy marriage, it will not help us and we do not qualify.

    An interesting side note is that U.S. immigration law will not recognize proxy marriages for immigration purposes unless the marriages are consummated. I don’t think this would present an obstacle for my partner and me. We can consummate, whenever the government wishes.

    But here’s another interesting point in my research of proxy marriages. They are not universally recognized from state to state. Some states recognize the proxy the marriage of other states and countries, and some states do not.

    So here we are in 2008 and still some states are not recognizing marriage licenses legally issued by other states. How can two people married by proxy in California move to New York and find out they are not married there? What does this mean for the future battle for recognition of same sex marriage? What does it mean for the “full faith and credit” provision of the U.S. Constitution?

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    February 20, 2008

    Immigrants are the new gays, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    Returning to a theme he's raised in private before, Barack Obama highlighted in his nationally televised speech last night in Houston how immigrants and gays have been scapegoated by politicians trying to drive a wedge in the electorate.

    Following up on previous posts (here and here) about the extent to which the leading Dems include gay issues in their speeches, Obama's address last night in Houston included this excerpt:

    I know how easy it is for politicians to turn us on each other, to use immigrants or gay people or folks who aren't like us as scapegoats for what they do. But I also know this. I know this because I have fought on the streets as an organizer, I have fought in the courts as a civil rights attorney, I have fought in the legislature, and I've won some battles, but I've also lost some, because good intentions aren't always enough. They have to be fortified by political will and political power.

    If you want to see it on video, it's in the last several minutes of Part 2 of the speech. Here are videos of both halves, which overlap by about two minutes:

    Part 1 of 2

    Part 2 of 2

    For those of you keeping track at home, Hillary Clinton did not mention gay issues in any way in her "concession" speech last night in Youngstown. Then again, she didn't mention the day's primary losses or offer Obama congratulations either.

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    February 14, 2008

    Happy Valentine's Day, 'love exiles'

    Posted by: Andoni

    Gaykiss It's been a great day so far. I bought my boyfriend a singing card, and he bought me four red roses -- one for each year. We're both very happy and going to our second favorite restaurant for dinner tonight ---- because our first is booked solid until 10pm.

    As a binational couple, we're very fortunate to be together. It could have been a lot different were it not for luck.

    This brings me to think about our less fortunate friends on this Valentine's Day. These are other gay friends who are U.S. citizens and who have fallen in love with someone from another country but were not able to bring their partner to the America. Thanks to our retro laws, these couples have to live in separate countries, only visiting each other several times a year, or if living together, they do so in exile.

    So to our friends Chris and Anderson (at least together after three years, but in exile), Alan and Victor (U.S. and Mexico, four years jetting back and forth), Gus and Philipe (U.S. and Philippines, seven years long distance), and Frank and Gustav (U.S and Russia three years, long distance), I say Happy Valentine's Day and offer hope that this next election will make things better.

    Hopefully, if we get the right combination of Congress and president, we may be able to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) so gay citizens can sponsor their foreign partner just as straight people currently do. Many in the gay community forget about UAFA when thinking about gay issues, when in fact this official U.S. government discrimination affects 38,000 couples according to Census numbers. That also means there are likely to be a lot more since people are shy about telling the census takers everything.

    That's 38,000 U.S. citizens whose lives have been totally screwed because of official government discrimination. Note that this figure of 38,000 citizens whose relationships are practically destroyed by our government is more than three times the total number of gay soldiers whose careers have been destroyed by having been discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," another form of official government discrimination.

    I plan to begin a series of posts talking about how bad the U.S. is on same sex immigration and comparing us to other Western countries. I will use the U.K., once one of the most homophobic countries in the West but which has literally turned around itself in less than 10 years, because that's the one my partner and I are looking at when his visa runs out.

    So Happy Valentine's Day to all, whether you are in a U.S.-U.S. relationship, a bi-national relationship, or no relationship at all.

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    Immigration law is an ass, con't

    Posted by: Chris

    Regular readers of The Citizen know the drama my partner and I have gone through because U.S. immigration law discriminates against same-sex couples, blocking gay Americans from sponsoring foreign partners for citizenship the way straight Americans can. It is one example, if particularly egregious, of how immigration law is an ass.

    Airportimmigration As poorly as U.S. immigration law treats gays, however, it can't compare to Bahrain, an Arab kingdom in the Persian Gulf. In an effort to crackdown on corruption of locals by foreign gays (since there are none homegrown apparently), immigration agents have been put on alert:

    "The Interior Ministry has told us that it already bans suspected homosexuals as they try entering the country from Bahrain International Airport," said committee secretary Jalal Fairooz. However, he claimed the ministry said homosexuals pretend not to be gay by posing "manly" until they make it past immigration.

    "They look manly as they come to the airport, but when they get in they return back to their unaccepted homosexual attitude," said Mr Fairooz. "Homosexuals are found in huge numbers at hairdressing salons and beauty and massage spas, which the ministry regularly inspects."

    However, he said many homosexuals were slipping through the net because the ministry was having problems determining if they were gay or not.

    "Those who look homosexual or offer customers personal services are being caught by police and taken to the Public Prosecution," he said.

    If it weren't symptomatic of real persecution, it would be classic Onion material.

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    February 11, 2008

    Is Hillary 'frauding' us on UAFA again?

    Posted by: Andoni

    As someone who has a vested interest in seeing the Uniting American Families Act passed, I am in constant communication with the various gay and Hispanic organizations who wish to see immigration reform. I was shocked to read in the Washington Blade today that Senator Hillary Clinton said the following about UAFA:

    “I’m supportive of it and the strategy was to do it as part of comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “We still need to do comprehensive immigration reform … that is my preference.”

    Chris asked earlier today whether Hillary knew that UAFA was not part of the comprehensive immigration reform  legislation that failed last year -- this would be really bad if she didn't know -- or whether she is tipping her hand about a new strategy going forward.

    In her Human Rights Campaign, questionnaire, Senator Clinton said she supports UAFA but has concerns over the possible fraud in same sex immigration. Since that survey was published I know that dozens of people have contacted her office and presented her with evidence that fraud will not be a problem.

    Has she changed her mind now? If she has, why doesn't she simply say that she now supports UAFA without reservation and sign on as a co-sponsor instead of opening up a new option and say she wants it part of comprehensive immigration reform? Adding UAFA to CIR does make the most sense, but there is a problem -- the Hispanic organizations don't want it there.  And it is the Hispanic lobby that controls the CIR legislation in Congress.

    So here we have Senator Clinton seemingly removing one obstacle (fraud) from fully embracing UAFA, but sticking UAFA somewhere else where there are more obstacles from the Hispanic community.

    Could it be that we are being played? Once again she'll get credit for saying she supports UAFA, just as she did in the HRC questionnaire, but at that time she didn't co-sponsor because of her concerns about fraud. Those concerns have apparently been sufficiently countered since she didn't raise them again. Now she supports UAFA but as part of CIR, which she should know is resisted by the lobby that controls CIR. Is her stating that she prefers to put UAFA in CIR the new "fraud?" That is, is that going to be the excuse for why she doesn't co-sponsor?

    Reasonable people can disagree on what Senator Clinton's motives are for this switch. But there is one true way to find out if indeed she does support our community on this issue as she says she does. The way we find out is to put a pen in her hand and ask her sign as a co-sponsor.

    If she signs, she's sincere. If she doesn't we should realize that we are once again being de-"frauded."

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    January 15, 2008

    So long and thanks for the tango

    Posted by: Chris

    Darioflavio OK so we never actually danced the tango, but this morning my partner and I wind up our three months in Buenos Aires exile from exile. Our time here passed by quickly, except for the recent 90-plus degree days in our apartment with no air conditioning.

    It was by some measures much easier to be here than I expected and every bit as hard in others. B.A. is everything you've heard it is: very European, beautiful architecture, wide streets, clean, very safe, cultured. Making friends wasn't as easy as in Brazil, but we certainly did -- and we can't thank you enough for your hospitality Flavio and Dario (pictured above, as we welcomed in the New Year with a few thousand of our closest friends), Gustavo, Eric, Javier, Marco, Omar, Romina, Gonzalo, Fede, Steven, Rafaela and Marcelo and many, many others.

    Being away from home -- and in my case away from home twice removed -- for the holidays was tough, but our friends here came through, always making us feel welcome and well-cared for.

    Now it's back to Brazil -- first a few days in São Paulo and then back to Rio De Janeiro, just in time to set ourselves up in our new pad in Copacabana before Carnival comes to town. If my calendar is correct, the Fat Tuesday is also Super Duper Tuesday in the primaries this year -- so you can guess who won't be live-blogging the results that night.

    One final thank you before we leave: to you.  Anderson and I have both been touched by all the emails we receive from other couples in our same situation.  There is real truth to the old cliché about how much better you feel just knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

    So muchas gracias and hasta luego, Buenos Aires, and bemvindo ao Brasil!

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    January 11, 2008

    The Dems on gay immigration rights

    Posted by: Chris

    Passportstuff The gay rights group Immigration Equality has provided a useful summary of where the three leading Democrats for president stand on the Uniting American Families Act, a bill now pending in Congress that would extend to gay Americans the same right that heterosexuals have to sponsor a foreign partner for citizenship.

    The results won't surprise any regular readers of this blog: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all have committed in principle to equal immigration rights and say they support UAFA.

    Still, all three also largely dodged the issue until they were put on record in response to the Human Rights Campaign's candidate questionnaire. None of them has signed on as a cosponsor, including Edwards during his Senate tenure. The reason for that, as I've noted before, lies in concerns that UAFA does not do enough to discourage fraud:

    Hillary Clinton: While I’m supportive of this proposal in principle, I have been concerned about fraud and believe implementation of this provision could strain the capacity of our Citizenship & Immigration Services.

    Barack Obama: As someone who believes that homosexual couples should have the same legal rights as married couples and that our immigration laws should unite families, I support the Uniting American Families Act in concept.  But I also believe that changes need to be made to the bill to minimize the potential for fraud and abuse of the immigration system.

    John Edwards: I believe that all families should be treated in the same manner by our immigration laws.

    Immigration Equality leaves it pretty much at that, but I would add a bit more analysis (imagine that).

    First off, Edwards gets credit for not hedging his support for UAFA and for being the only one of the three who actually mentions immigration rights (although not UAFA specifically) on his campaign website. Then again, we know that John Edwards has a problem telling audiences what they don't want to hear, so color me somewhat skeptical that his actual position differs from either of the frontrunners.

    Hillary Clinton's position raises the most hackles for me because she cites not only the risk of fraud but the "strain" on CIS to implement UAFA. That is effectively saying there is a price tag for our equality and UAFA might be too expensive. If Clinton believes her own rhetoric about equality, then it should be enough that gay Americans are endowed with the same rights, pay the same taxes and deserve the same services from our government as heterosexual Americans.

    Both Clinton and Obama raise the fraud issue, and I know it's a sensitive area for Immigration Equality. The concern is considered overblown, since there is arguably more fraud with gay foreigners using fake heterosexual marriages to be with their American partners, but that's hardly a winning political argument. It's also true that with straight and gay relationships as avenues to U.S. citizenship, the heterosexual variety would be the easier route to fake for most.

    Unfortunately for us, our own mistreatment under U.S. marriage laws undermines somewhat the case for UAFA as written today. Heterosexual couples have to marry to sponsor a foreigner, and as we know marriage is an institution with an enormous number of legal and financial entanglements. Those entanglements -- like risking half your assets upon divorce -- are in and of themselves a healthy deterrent for fraud.

    One way to address that would be to allow gays to marry; but that would obviate the need for UAFA anyway. Since UAFA is a transitionary measure, there need to be proof requirements of financial and legal interdependence that help to provide some of the fraud deterrence that marriage does automatically. That's what Obama's campaign has said in response to inquiries. Clinton's staff, on the other hand, set up a meeting to discuss UAFA issues and then freaked out when news of it went public. Who knows where they are now.

    There is, however, a third way, which would also reduce the need for UAFA, though not entirely. If Congress repeals the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, then we could apply for fiancee and marriage visas just like our heterosexual fellow-citizens. All three leading Dems favor repeal of this half of DOMA.

    The trick would still be over where to marry, since only gays who live in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Mexico (long story) can marry as of today. If the U.S. government recognized gay marriages from other countries -- Canada, Spain, Holland, Belgium and South Africa -- that would also help considerably. The DOMA avenue wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a "path to citizenship" where none exists today.

    So who is best on gay immigration rights? It all depends on which one you think would act most quickly via UAFA or DOMA to address the issue that Barney Frank has called the political perfect storm: gay marriage and immigration all rolled into one. I think you know who my money's on.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 For related stories and breaking news, click or bookmark:

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    January 08, 2008

    Kissing babies the Obama way

    Posted by: Chris

    Cjx07 This just in from Lavi Soloway, a long-time legal advocate for gay immigration equality and a blogger himself:

    After his speech [yesterday] in Claremont, NH, Senator Obama made his way along the front row of the audience. He stopped when he reached the spot where I was standing. He smiled broadly and beamed as he reached (at his own playful insistence) for Lily and held her in his hands.

    I explained to him that I had brought Lily with me this morning to New Hampshire so that we could witness in person the Senator's historical campaign. I told him that I was a single gay parent, and as such it was important for me that he knew that.

    He kissed her on the forehead and said to me: "I am proud of you." He was completely natural, and had clearly moved the audience. They were nuts about him. I predict a landslide tomorrow.

    Photos of Obama with Lily (like the one above) have since shown up on several freelance photographer websites.

    (Photo by CJ Gunther of the European Pressphoto Agency)

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    December 27, 2007

    Arrested on his own petard

    Posted by: Chris

    The blog run by Immigration Equality included an interesting tidbit about a heterosexual couple facing criminal charges because the man was helping his Mongolian girlfriend stay in the U.S. illegally. It's unusual to see a hetero facing felony charges for harboring an illegal, much less see it in the news, but the man in this relationship was also a top investigator with Citizen & Immigration Services, previously known as Immigration & Naturalization Services, or INS.

    AP reports:

    Authorities said Lloyd Miner, an internal affairs chief for U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, knew that his girlfriend, Tsomorlig Batjargal, a native of Mongolia, was an illegal immigration and helped to obtain fake identifications to hide her immigration status. Miner, 49, faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. He has been on unpaid leave since December 2006.

    Minor's attorney claims he didn't know his girlfriend was illegal, even though he paid for a plane ticket to fly her to Washington state to get a driver's license. “This is ‘boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and boy asks her to move in with him,’ ” said Minor's attorney. “There’s no crime in falling in love.”

    If anything, Minor's crime here was one of stupidity. As gay couples in binational relationships know all too well, Minor could have solved his girlfriend's immigration problems with a quick trip to the justice of peace. Once married, Batjargal would have been golden -- or green-carded, at least.

    For those of us forced to live in exile from the U.S. because we choose not to violate immigration laws, Minor's tale is more cruel than sad.

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    December 14, 2007

    Love is a question of faith

    Posted by: Chris

    1_2 I wrote last week that the second issue of new gay Brazilian glossy Junior Magazine featured a story about six "real life love stories," including a bit about Anderson and me. I've now gotten my hands on a scan of the page about us and thought I'd share it with you. If you click on the image, it will enlarge for you.

    The feature was great, and we enjoyed the photos as well. Brazil has needed a professional, porn-free national gay magazine of the likes of Out, Genre or Instinct, and it looks like Junior is making the grade.

    Junior_swimmer My pal over at Made In Brazil will be doing a full review of the second issue and the debut of another national gay mag, DOM, next week and I'll link to it. Both have eye candy, of course. A photo feature on gay swimmers included one athlete (pictured on the right here) who we know from our gym in Rio.  DOM featured a fashion spread with model André Ziehe. As always, Made in Brazil has the best of the pics.

    Our amigão Marcos Costa has already compared the two -- albeit in Portuguese -- over at Carioca Virtual. His take is that DOM is for the more sophisticated, older gay man, more focused on daily lives than fashion or glamor. Junior is younger, more visual, and stylish.  How we wound up in Junior and not DOM, in that case, there's no telling.

    Here's my attempt at translating the article from Junior:

    Chris Crain, 42, journalist and lawyer, and Anderson Freitas, 32, student, have been together for almost three years and wear rings. In Amsterdam, they were attacked in the street for walking holding hands. Their story was in the newspapers, and the city government even invited them back for the Gay Pride Parade, months later, as a way of apologizing.

    "Our relationship is caught between the immigration laws of Brazil and the United States," explained Chris, the American. "The U.S. doesn't recognize gay relationships for immigration, so Anderson can't live with me there. And Brazil doesn't permit foreigners with tourist visas to stay in the country for more than six months per year, which prevents me from living here. In order to stay together, we have to travel to other places so we don't have a fixed residence and all of our things are stored in boxes. We plan to marry in some country that recognizes civil unions between gays to get recognition for our relationship."

    "It hasn't been easy living like this. We are always saying goodbye to the other without knowing how much time we will be apart," says Anderson. "But I think when you love someone, barrier don't exist. In the beginning of our relationship, are biggest problem was communication. I didn't speak any English and Chris didn't speak any Portuguese. We were still able to establish a connection because we wanted to so much." Chris agreed completely: "Love is a question of faith"

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    December 12, 2007

    Hispanics are the new gays: Obama

    Posted by: Chris

    Obamainnh In a private meeting with New Hampshire Freedom to Marry activists, Barack Obama apparently offered his assessment that Republicans are now using immigration as the wedge issue that gay marriage was in the last several election cycles. "You guys have been supplanted by the Hispanics" as the new evil group, Obama is paraphrased as having said.

    He's probably right about that, given Tom Tancredo's presidential candidacy and how Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee compete with each other to see who can be more xenophobic. Still, the backlash for writing off the much larger Latino voter bloc is much riskier for the GOP than demonizing the gays. Not a strategy Karl Rove ever would have signed off on; not because of it's divisiveness or immorality, of course, but because it's politically stupid.

    Perhaps that's why the only federal gay rights issue that gives Obama and Hillary Clinton pause isn't marriage -- since that's a state issue and both back repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. It's immigration rights for same-sex couples.

    It's still worth noting that on this, as on so many other issues, Obama is slightly better than Clinton, committing to a full (not half) repeal of DOMA, which would allow gay Americans to seek fiance or marriage visas for their (er... our) non-American partners.

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    December 11, 2007

    GNW 5: Gay boys and bi fruit flies

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Gay men fail to break from boy-play: U.K. scientistGay men fail to break from boy-play: QUICK LOOK: Some men are gay because they fail to make a crucial break with the 'boys together' stage of childhood, according to a new book. U.K. anthropologist Desmond Morris argues... (MORE)
    2. Anti-gay carolers bemuse Target shoppers in Calif.Anti-gay carolers bemuse Target shoppers in Calif.: QUICK LOOK: Christmas carolers wearing shirts advertising anti-gay principles drew bespectacled looks from store patrons as they sang outside of a Sacramento Target store, officials... (MORE)
    3. Giuliani says gay 'acts' sinful but homosexuality isn'tGiuliani says gay acts 'sinful' but homosexuality isn't: QUICK LOOK: GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani disagrees with his conservative rival Mike Huckabee over whether homosexuality is a "sinful lifestyle" but nonetheless said homosexual acts... (MORE)
    4. Pa. man bludgeoned friend to death in gay panic, lawyer says: QUICK LOOK: A Fayette County man fell into an uncontrollable rage and bludgeoned his drinking buddy to death because the victim purportedly made homosexual advances, then threatened to kill him and rape the man's... (MORE)
    5. Changing a gene in fruit flies also turns them bisexualChanging a gene in fruit flies also turns them bisexual: QUICK LOOK: A new study is providing insights into the genetics of homosexuality -- at least in fruit flies. Researchers have discovered a gene involved in homosexual behavior in... (MORE)


    • Big issue for '08: gay, illegal and carless: QUICK LOOK: Every election year has them: the provocative social issues that can destroy a candidacy. In 2004 it was gay marriage that upended Kerry-Edwards in close swing states...(MORE)

    Comedian Mo Rocca riffed for AOL Newsbloggers about what he sees as the issue of the 2008 election: gay illegal immigrants who need licenses to drive themselves to their own gay weddings.

    Adam Francouer, policy coordinator for the gay rights group Immigration Equality, found Rocca's sketch insensitive to the plight of gay binational couples. Rocca, who made his name as a correspondent on "The Daily Show" and as a regular pundit for VH1's "I Love…" series, is no conservative. So it's more than likely that he was poking fun at those who oppose gay marriage and resent immigrants.

    Even so, if Rocca is going to make hay about issues that are so serious for so many, he could at least be shaper about it, and funny. His man-on-the-street skit fails miserably on both counts.

    Judge for yourself:

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    November 05, 2007

    Dreaming of being disrespected

    Posted by: Chris

    United_states_passport There's an interesting thread over at Andrew Sullivan's blog about the disrespectful treatment that gay couples, even American gay couples, receive from passport control officers when arriving in the U.S.  First to weigh in was conservative gay author Bruce Bawer, who lives in Norway with his partner:

    Every time that my partner and I fly to the US and I have to fill out a customs declaration form, it galls me to have to write "0" under "Number of family members traveling with you" given that my partner is, in fact, under the law of Norway, not only my family but my next of kin.  So on one recent trip, I wrote "1."  At passport control in Newark, the woman asked me where the other member of my family was.  I explained that he was a Norwegian citizen and had therefore gotten in line with other non-US citizens.  She asked what our relationship was.  I explained that we were domestic partners.  She spat out, in a vicious tone: "THAT'S NOT FAMILY!"  I replied, in a civil tone, "It is in Norway."  She said nastily, "Well, it's not here," and, grabbing a pen, changed my "1" to a "0."  Not wanting to jeopardize my partner's chances of getting into the country, I chose not to argue with her.

    Then Dan Savage chimed in:

    I feel for Bruce Bawer ...but try coming back into the US from Europe with your partner and your adopted child. DJ is, as you know, a quick kid. He spends a lot of time around adults, he's not oblivious, he can read adults. And we go to Canada and/or Europe at least twice a year. I can't tell you the number of times we've had passport and/or customs officials literally and audibly scoff when we tell them DJ is our son -- you know, that "uusssggghhhh" sound people make when they're told something they don't believe or are offended by, a cross between groaning and clearing your throat.

    Savage and his partner reacted by teaching their young son that, "These people work for George W. Bush, and that George W. Bush doesn't approve of gay families, and he hires assholes that feel the same way." 

    I don't see the point in teaching their child the double-evil that some people hate his parents, and the implicit lesson that he should hate them back, but c'est la vie.  Andrew points out that disdain for gay couples and those with HIV is U.S. immigration policy of long-standing; it's disrespect written into law.

    Without taking anything away from any of the above, I would add that for a whole slew of "love exiles" like my partner and me, it is but a distant dream to be treated with disdain and disrespect by U.S. passport control. Checking "0" on "Number of family members"? Sign me up, so long as he isn't turned away.

    I can't tell you how many times I've even played out the fantasy in my mind, imagining my partner and me boarding a flight to the U.S. — together. We actually find ourselves smiling longingly anytime we're at an airport and see an American or Delta or United Airlines plane.

    Now three countries (Argentina -> Brazil -> Canada) removed from ever being together in the U.S., I would add that passage of the Uniting American Families Act, along with repeal of the HIV ban, are the first steps toward a gay-friendly U.S. border.

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    October 21, 2007

    Next stop, Buenos Aires

    Posted by: Chris

    300pxargentinabanderap2080016 Score another win for immigration law over your's truly and my partner. After spending part of 2006 and most of 2007 so far in Rio and then São Paulo, Brazil, we've been evicted yet again and this time my partner will be forced to go ex-pat for us to stay together.

    That's because this time the problem isn't the immigration laws of the United States, though they still prohibit me from sponsoring my partner for residence back home.  The problem this time is Brazilian immigration law.  You see my tourist visa is about to expire for this year and after much wringing of hands with fellow ex-pats, Brazilian friends and some knowledgeable lawyers, we have decided not to risk my overstaying.

    That decision came several weeks ago, and was followed by a somewhat scattered search for options, which eventually narrowed down to two: Buenos Aires or Cape Town, South Africa. The choices are not as crazy as they sound.

    Like many of my fellow gay Americans in binational relationships, I am applying along with my partner to become "landed immigrants" in Canada, which will recognize our relationship even in the visa application. But since we're not married, we have to prove one year of cohabitation. That's doable, since we have lived together since September 2006, when I left Washington and moved to Rio. But it's complicated, involved and carries a somewhat greater risk of rejection.

    Aside from our immigration issue, we would love to marry after almost three years together, but (as I've explained before) only five countries in the world marry gay couples: Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. The three European countries all limit marriage to residents, and while Canada does not, getting a Canadian tourist visa for my partner is almost as difficult as getting one to visit the U.S.  That leaves South Africa, which marries non-residents and (like all of Europe including the U.K.) accepts Brazilian tourists without a special visa.

    We received some wonderful assistance from a network of gay friends in Cape Town, even though they weren't even our friends -- they were on loan from a very dear friend back in Washington.  But when we added up the expense of getting there and living there, we decided to stay closer to "home" in Buenos Aires.

    200410buenosairesobelisconocturno Buenos Aires is hardly a back-up option, even if we can't marry there. I spent a day there at the end of my first trip to South America in February 2005.  (It was supposed to be a week, but I met Anderson and extended my stay in Rio every day until I had only one left.)  It is a beautiful city, very European, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, clean, safe and one of the few places the dollar still has any value. (It's dropped below 1.80 Brazilian reais for the first time since 2000; it was almost R$3 per dollar my first trip here.)

    Several kind folk, including fellow bloggers Kevin (Club Whirled) and Rex Wockner have also leant me their friend network, as have several of our Brazilian friends. I'm sure they will help us acclimate and get to know our new home, if only for three months.  In January, we can return again to Brazil.

    I will leave Brazil, even temporarily, with a heavy heart.  I love this country, even with all of its problems, and I especially love its people.  And having finally semi-mastered Portuguese, it's back to the Spanish drawing board for me.  Hopefully the three-year assault by Portuguese hasn't undone all the Spanish I learned back in school.

    I am writing about this move with optimism because it is the way that Anderson and I are approaching it.  Our lives remain in a semi-constant state of upheaval, and yet another move will be a jolt to the system.  But like many "love exiles," we are practically old pros at this now.

    I also remain hopeful that someday in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. government will join 20 other countries in allowing gay Americans the same right that straight Americans have to sponsor a partner for residence -- just as our government already allows non-Americans to do when the come to work temporarily in the U.S.

    Whether change comes through passage of the Uniting American Families Act or through repealing the half of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, it can't come soon enough for us and so many others.

    For a complete news summary on gay immigration issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/immigration

    For a complete news summary on gay Latino issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/latino

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    September 06, 2007

    Obama and gay immigration rights

    Posted by: Chris

    Barack_obama_bbc Score another blow for readers of this blog. First there was Christopher Hubble, who reacted to a complimentary post I'd written about Bill Richardson by dredging up his "maricón moment" on the Don Imus show a year earlier. That resulted in a story on Gay News Watch that was a first important hint that the New Mexico governor's record on gay rights was more impressive than his command of gay issues.

    Now Danielle Clark, a Barack Obama supporter, has done some sleuthing that sheds important light on her candidate's qualified support for gay couple immigration rights. She came across a couple of posts I wrote back in June about how both Obama and Clinton were hedging their support for the Uniting American Families Act, which would extend to gay Americans the same rights straight folks have to sponsor their spouses for citizenship.

    The Human Rights Campaign candidate "scorecard" showed both Obama and Clinton supporting immigration rights for binational couples even though neither had signed on to cosponsor UAFA. It turns out that both of them, in their more detailed responses to the HRC questionnaire, had raised concerns about the risk of fraud under UAFA as written. When I wrote a less-than-complimentary second post tracking Obama's evolution on the issue, in which he showed sympathy but not full-fledged support, Danielle had had enough.

    She fired off an email to the Obama campaign asking for clarification and got this, rather detailed reply:


    Barack believes that LGBT Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a choice between staying with their partner and staying in their country. That's why he supports changing immigration policy through the Uniting American Families Act. He does, however, have some reservations about the fraud provisions of the present bill.

    Precisely because same-sex couples are not allowed to enter into civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other legally-recognized unions throughout the country, he believes we need to make sure that we have adequate safeguards against fraud.

    He wants to make sure that immigration is possible for a partner in committed relationships, but he also wants to make sure there is a good mechanism for determining who qualifies for that status. He would like to see the Act get more specific with regards to defining 'financial interdependence' and the documentation required as proof in order to establish relationships -- which could very well happen once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

    Hope this helps clarify.


    Actually, Alex and Danielle, this does help clarify quite a bit. The Obama camp is right that merely extending immigration rights to gay Americans doesn't level the playing field because heterosexuals are required to marry (or at least be engaged) to the non-American to sponsor him/her for citizenship. As Alex rightly suggests, gay Americans can't enter into that level of commitment because few states have marriage or civil unions for gay couples, and the Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Mr. Hillary Clinton) blocks federal recognition of gay marriages anyway.

    So that makes the fraud provisions of UAFA that much more important. Even though it's unfair we can't marry, it is fair to require some additional level proof than just our say-so that we are in a committed, permanent relationship with the non-American we want to sponsor.

    As Alex/Obama also suggests, the UAFA strategy has been to add on fraud-prevention provisions in the horsetrading that would happen when the bill comes up for consideration. Adding them now, it's reasoned by Immigration Equality and other pro-UAFA groups, only means vulnerability to some other, more painful compromise when push time comes.

    It's a judgment call to be sure, but I see Obama's point here.  Why shouldn't UAFA be written in a form ready for passage, rather than holding off on provisions that ought to be there but aren't. Other countries that have dealt with this issue of how to test the legitimacy of unmarried couples, including Canada and the U.K., have required one year of cohabitation in addition to proof of financial codependence, etc. It's a draconian provision, as my own vagabond life has proven, but I can't say it's unreasonable.

    So kudos to Danielle and, I have to say, I'm once again impressed that Obama and the Obama camp don't pander and have substantive responses on the issues. Now it's Hillary's turn.

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    August 27, 2007

    Reunite this family

    Posted by: Chris

    300h Another happy gay couple, this one married in Massachusetts, faces forced separation after the U.S. denied the asylum request made by Genesio Januario Oliveira, who has now returned to Brazil.

    Tim Coco, 46, runs a successful advertising agency in Haverhill, Mass. Six years ago he met Genesio Januario Oliveira, who was visiting Boston on vacation from his home in Brazil. The two fell in love and in 2005, under rights protected by the Massachusetts Constitution, they were married. Since then, they have lived happily and quietly in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip.

    Except that two weeks ago Oliveira was forced to return to Brazil under orders from the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied his application for the asylum status he hoped would allow him to stay in the United States with his husband. The couple needed to pursue the asylum route because their same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, and federal laws supersede states' when it comes to immigration.

    The culprit here isn't so much the standard for asylum as the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents Coco from sponsoring his spouse for U.S. citizenship, as countless heterosexual Americans have done for decades.

    Relief for Coco and Oliveira will not come easily. Asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional violation of civil rights is a long shot at best. Building support in Congress to revisit the Defense of Marriage Act is a better strategy, but one that still could take several years. The most promising solution now probably is a bill in Congress that would establish "permanent partnership" status for unmarried couples so that a US citizen could sponsor a foreign-born partner for immigration.

    Actually, I'm inclined to believe repealing Section 3 of DOMA — or getting it declared unconstitutional — may prove easier than passing UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act. Either way, Coco and Oliveira now face forced separation or expatriation — the same horribly unfair Sophie's Choice confronting some 35,000 binational gay couples, including me and my partner.

    Please help reunite this family.

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    August 10, 2007

    MIA for the HRC/Logo forum

    Posted by: Chris

    I was living a bit of anti-gay discrimination during the Democratic presidential candidates' forum on gay rights issues tonight.  The event coincided with an incredibly long travel day for me, begun at 6 a.m. in São Paulo, Brazil, and finished as I arrived at the Washington, D.C., apartment of a friend at almost 3 a.m.

    The reason for the trip home? My 3-month visa was up for staying in Brazil, so I had to return to the States before heading back down.

    I've read some accounts of the forum and watched some of it online.  It looks like Richardson again fumbled big-time, this time on whether being gay is a "choice." It's sad to see a candidate who really does have the strongest gay rights record in the race implode in non-policy gaffes like his "maricón" moment and now this.

    For entirely selfish reasons, I had hoped to see the candidates pressed on immigration rights for gay binational couples, but I haven't seen sign of that so far in the coverage.  After I've had a chance to sleep, I'll be able to offer more coherent analysis.

    Boa noite!

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