Same-Sex Couples Stranded Between Love and Country

November 17, 2009

by Esteban Parra | The News Journal

They met nearly 20 years ago in the Netherlands.

From the start, Jenny Phipps, a Delaware native, and Ottie Pondman said they forged a bond they never shared with their husbands.

When Phipps divorced her husband of 17 years, she moved in with Pondman, a native of the Netherlands, who was already divorced. The two lived as a couple in Zoetermeer.

But when the 52-year-old Phipps decided she wanted to return to the United States following her brother’s death, Pondman, 61, agreed and came over on a visa waiver program — essentially a tourist permit — to legally remain here.

In September, though, immigration officials gave Pondman 60 to 90 days to leave the country. Her only chance of staying was to get married.

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Pass the Uniting American Families Act

October 21, 2009

by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Jerrold Nadler | The Hill

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Sen. Patrick Leahy

In many respects, Greg and Jaime of New York City are like millions of other American families. They met at a mutual friend’s party in 1998 and have built a loving, stable life together over the past 11 years. They live in a pre-war apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and share a love of New York City, travel, dining out and hosting friends for dinner. Jaime has worked for nearly 10 years in the financial services industry. Like so many others in this economic downturn, Greg lost his job in January. If their life sounds unremarkable so far, that is because it is.

What is remarkable is that soon they may be forced to choose whether they will separate or leave the United States in order to remain together as a committed couple.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Greg and Jaime are both men, and Jaime, who was born in Argentina, is not a U.S. citizen. Because they are not a heterosexual couple, current immigration law does not allow Greg, who is a U.S. citizen, to sponsor Jaime for lawful permanent residence. When Jaime’s visa expires, in order to live together lawfully, they may have no choice but to leave the United States. This would mean abandoning their friends, Greg’s extended family and Jaime’s career. And then, where could they live together with immigration rights as a gay couple? Not Argentina.

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Keep Our Families Together — Reform Immigration Laws

October 21, 2009

by Rep. Mike Honda | Roll CallRep. Mike Honda

With anti-immigration sentiment holding the health care debate hostage, we cannot afford to delay comprehensive immigration reform any longer. The time is now, lest immigration be maligned further. A nation born of immigrants, whether Hispanic, Asian, African, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, we are forgetting the forbearance shown our forefathers and forgoing the opportunity to pursue a more fiscally prudent immigration policy. That is, unless we keep families together.

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Growing Calls for Immigration Reform That Leaves No Family Behind

October 21, 2009

by Steve Ralls | Huffington Post

Congress has promised to begin the process of reforming America’s broken immigration system later this year. There is widespread consensus that reform is urgently needed, and a growing insistence among lawmakers that any reform effort must adhere to our nation’s long-standing commitment to family unification. Under current immigration law, millions of families remain separated because of inexcusable visa backlogs, unnecessary bureaucratic paper trails and discriminatory policies that do not recognize lesbian and gay families for the purposes of equal immigration rights.

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U.S. Immigration Law: Tearing Apart Life, Love & Home

October 9, 2009

by Steve Ralls | Huffington Post

On Sunday, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans – and their allies – will travel from nearly every corner of the country to converge on Capitol Hill and call on lawmakers to support full equality for the LGBT community. The event, named the National Equality March, comes on the heels of growing calls for the federal government to pick up the pace on civil rights legislation, such as recognition for LGBT couples, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and finally passing an inclusive employment non-discrimination act. Organizers say they are expecting tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of participants for the event.

Steve and Joe, however, will be notably absent.

The couple, who recently married in Connecticut and bought a home in Washington, D.C., will not be in the capital on Sunday. Instead, they will be packing Joe’s belongings. Under federal law, Steve and Joe are no longer allowed to live together in the country they call home.

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Equality California-Sponsored Resolutions on Key Federal Policies Advance in California Legislature

August 21, 2009

On August 18, 2009, the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed three resolutions with a 6-3 vote of the committee on critical federal laws affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people: the U.S. Blood Donor Nondiscrimination Resolution (AJR 13), a resolution in support of the Uniting American Families Act (AJR 15), and a resolution urging the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (AJR 19).

“It is important for California, the state with the largest LGBT population, to urge the federal government to repeal discriminatory federal policies that ultimately hurt all people in the United States,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “We have more potential now than ever before to make a positive impact at the federal level, and we call on Congress and the President to seize this historic opportunity.”

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A Test Case on Same-Sex Fairness

April 1, 2009

Editorial | The San Francisco Chronicle

Shirley Tan is a 43-year old Pacifica homemaker and mother of twin seventh-grade boys. Tan also wears an ankle bracelet assigned by immigration agents after a dawn raid on her home two months ago.

Barring a legal miracle, she faces likely deportation to the Philippines on Friday. That result would devastate her family and friends. But her case also touches off two flashpoint issues – immigration law and same-sex marriage – that are combining in a way that shows the unfairness of this country’s laws.

If she is deported, Tan will be separated from her partner Jay Mercado, who is a naturalized citizen. For straight couples, there wouldn’t be a similar problem because a citizen can sponsor a spouse for residency. But under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, this right doesn’t exist for an estimated 37,000 same-sex couples where one partner is a noncitizen.

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