U.S. Citizens Living Abroad Still Face Hurdles Post-Doma

An article posted September 2 highlights issues faced by U.S. citizens working abroad where “diplomatic issues have seemingly trumped federal policy”. The article illustrates the international complications since the fall of DOMA and that despite the numerous changes that have already taken place within the U.S., U.S. citizens and the agencies they work for “must wrestle with how to do their jobs while honoring who they are and their host country’s values.” For instance, “the rules of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations require nations to grant diplomatic immunity to foreign-service workers, meaning they are supposed to be subject to the laws of their native country. Still, some governments ignore those guidelines when it comes to same-sex marriage, forcing the State Department to seek workarounds.”

Read the full article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/us-gays-face-challenges-serving-abroad/2013/09/02/1bc619d8-fbab-11e2-9bde-7ddaa186b751_story.html

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DHS Finalizes New Immigration Guidelines Post-DOMA

“Shortly after the Supreme Court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that gay and lesbian couples would for the first time be able to secure green cards for their foreign spouses as other couples can.

In new guidelines issued Friday morning, the department said it would initiate a ‘concerted effort’ to review all applications that were filed, and denied, by same-sex couples after Feb. 23, 2011. The department said it has tried to keep track of all denials based on the Defense of Marriage Act after that date, which is when President Obama decided his administration would not defend the act in court.

Gay and lesbian couples could also request a review of their denied case, whether the decision was handed down before or after that date.

The new guidelines also allow U.S. citizens to bring those they’re engaged to into the country ahead of scheduled marriages.

‘As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for marriage’ the guidelines state.”

-Excerpt from “DHS to reconsider immigration petitions for gay couples,” by Alan Gomez, USA Today

“The DOMA decision was particularly important after immigration reform supporters in the Senate decided not to include provisions for same-sex couples in a bill that passed in June.

The new rules don’t entirely fix the woes of same-sex binational couples, because they only apply to those legally married in states that allow for same-sex marriage. ”

-Excerpt from “Department Of Homeland Security Finalizing Post-DOMA Rules For Immigrating Gay Couples,” by Elise Foley and Sam Stein, Huffington Post

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“DOMA’s Fall, Legal Same-Sex Marriage: Formerly Forbidden Fruit Brings Unexpected Sweetness to Binational Couple”

A bi-national couple’s reflection on the importance of marriage and the acceptance it symbolizes. Article reposted from the Huffington Post by John-Manuel Andriote.

“My friend George* from D.C. called recently to tell me how surprised he was by his ‘before and after’ experience of finally marrying Ali*, his partner of seven years, after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26. Their experience is further evidence that formerly forbidden fruit — in this case the rights and social benefits of marriage — really can be the sweetest, and that finally being free to taste and savor it can change lives in unexpectedly good ways.

Technically, they could have married any time after the District of Columbia made legal same-sex marriage licenses available on March 3, 2010. As a binational couple, however, they weren’t sure how it would affect Ali’s student visa status.

They had fallen in love while George was working in Pakistan, and they returned to the States together so that Ali could pursue his college education. As the months passed, they lived with the uncertainty of not knowing whether Ali would be able to renew his visa or be forced to leave the country and return to Pakistan. Immigration is hard, jobs that offer visas are hard to find, and for binational same-sex couples, even in states that recognized their marriages before DOMA was struck down, citizenship for a spouse was impossible.

‘We were at our rope’s end,’ said George. ‘Ali was planning to go back home to reapply for a visa, not knowing if he would get it. I was looking at jobs there. I considered leaving the country so we could be together. It was a desperate point we were facing.’ He added, ‘I have paid taxes for years, contributed to this country and helped people but couldn’t sponsor the person I love for a green card because we are gay.’

After DOMA’s fall, George and Ali went to the courthouse to get a marriage license. The room was full of gay and lesbian couples, some old, some young. They only had to fill out a few lines on a form and pick the name of a justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. That part stumped George.

Looking at the list of names, he asked the clerk, ‘Which of these are gay-friendly?’ The man told him that everyone on the list had agreed to perform same-sex marriages.

‘I was relieved and a bit amused,’ said George. ‘We called a name I chose at random, and he agreed to do the ceremony in the minimum of three days required by the law. I put his name on the paper, and we were done.’

The ceremony was simple but lovely. The two men met their justice of the peace in a garden at the National Cathedral. They both wore black suits. George’s mother was with them.

They had prepared a simple ceremony, adopting the ancient service that the late Yale historian John Boswell described in his book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. The words resonated deeply with George and his mother because they were basically the same as those of the Greek Orthodox marriage ceremony, familiar to each of them from their upbringing in the church.

In the majestic language of the Orthodox church, it said, in part:

You, O Lord and Ruler, are merciful and loving,
who created humans after your own image,
who united your holy apostles Philip and Bartholomew,
bound one unto the other not only by nature but by faith and the spirit.
As you found worthy to unite your holy martyrs Serge and Bacchus,
Blessed also are these your servants, Ali and George.

Like Harmodios and Aristogeiton,
Like Hadrian and Antinious,
Like Rumi and Shams,
Like Shah Hussain and Madho Lal,
Like Leonardo and Salai,
Like Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle,
Like Christopher Isherwood and Don Bacardi,

The servant of God Ali and servant of God George are joined together
not only by the bond of nature but by faith and by spirit
granting unto them peace and love
and oneness of mind.

‘I was an old-fashioned homosexual, I guess,’ said George. ‘I really did not care about gay marriage. It was just a piece of paper. We got married to get my partner a green card.’ But once it happened, he said, ‘I learned how wrong I was. It is more than a visa and tax benefits. You finally feel acceptance and connection at a deeper level.’

After George’s little sister sent wedding pictures to relatives whom George had been ‘shy’ about telling of his relationship with Ali, he said,'”So many relatives sent messages of love, welcoming Ali to the family. We were both in tears.’

For his part, Ali said that although he had met George’s relatives many times and felt welcome, he now feels a connection that wasn’t there before. ‘I need to really be more involved with the family now,’ he said. ‘I can’t miss events like I used to.’

*They did not want their real names used.”

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DOMA & Prop 8 Struck Down by Supreme Court

Today history was made when the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional and that Prop 8 proponents lacked standing. This means that legally married same-sex couples will now get federal benefits, including the ability to sponsor their spouse for a green card. The Prop 8 ruling means that same-sex marriage is now legal in California making it the 13th state plus the District of Columbia to allow same-sex marriage.

Immigration Equality has put together a great post with the most common questions regarding the Supreme Court rulings and what they mean for same-sex partners. Most notable, you do not have to live in a marriage equality state to apply for a green card. Unfortunately it is still unclear where domestic partnerships and civil unions fall in these rulings.

Immigration Equality will also be hosting a 90 minute conference call tomorrow (Thursday 6/27) at noon with Rachel B. Tiven, executive director, and their legal team. They will “provide an analysis of the ruling and take your questions about how it impacts your family.”

To join the call:

    • Dial (800) 868-1837
    • (404) 920-6440 if you are outside the United States
    • And use access code 397548#

For more information about Thursday’s call visit: http://immigrationequality.org/2013/06/thursday-at-noon-what-does-the-supreme-courts-doma-ruling-mean-for-you/

Click to download the Supreme Courts decisions: United States v. Windsor(DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry(Prop 8)

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Still Hope for LGBT Inclusive Immigration Reform

This is a great piece from Equality on Trial that explains the next steps for the immigration reform bill as well as connecting this issue with the two Supreme court cases that took place late March.

By Scottie Thomaston, reposted from Equality on Trial
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday rejected pro-LGBT amendments to the “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, and as EqualityOnTrial noted yesterday, four Democrats also opposed inclusion of the amendments. Activists reacted with anger to the exclusion, with some suggesting they were shocked. The amendments were an attempt to protect members of binational same-sex couples from facing deportation, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars recognition of legal same-sex marriages and sponsorship of spouses relies on the definition imposed by DOMA.
The chairman of that committee, Senator Leahy (D-VT) had introduced two pro-LGBT amendments: one is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would create the category of “permanent partner” in immigration laws as a way to reduce some of the effects of DOMA. The classification of permanent partner would have imposed most of the same requirements as marriages: the couple would have to be in a committed relationship, couldn’t be underage or blood relatives, and couldn’t be married or in a permanent partnership with anyone else. UAFA carves out an exception to DOMA: DOMA would remain the law until repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court, but same-sex binational couples could escape deportation.
The other amendment is a different type of workaround. It would add a section to the Immigration and Nationality Act providing that a marriage will be recognized as legal if it is legal where it was performed. This wouldn’t create any new categories, it would just ensure that the federal government relies on state law definitions for immigration purposes.
Neither amendment was included in the bill by the committee, but yesterday Greg Sargent reported in the Washington Post that Democratic aides are saying that the amendments may be reintroduced after the immigration bill reaches the floor of the Senate. The report suggests that the amendments may reappear in time to coincide with the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor’s constitutional challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. If the Court strikes down the law, it would make UAFA mostly inoperable. But this Court is unpredictable on social issues and any decision could hinge on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. At oral argument he seemed most convinced that Section 3 of DOMA violates federalism principles, but most of the moderates seemed to find an equal protection holding more appealing while the conservatives disagreed with both. If the Court leaves DOMA intact, it’s hard to see how Congress would repeal it any time soon. The House is majority Republican and the Senate usually proceeds on the assumption that 60 votes will be required due to obstruction.
Introducing the amendments right before the Court’s ruling could change the conversations over LGBT inclusion: if Section 3 of DOMA is struck down, the amendments would be seen as largely unnecessary, but if it’s upheld and the amendments aren’t included in the bill, same-sex binational couples will not get any relief from this immigration reform package. Interestingly, Sargent’s piece suggests that Democrats actually want to force the issue:
And so, if Dems wait until the DOMA decision comes down, they could find themselves without any real need to push the LGBT issue in the immigration reform debate. At the same time, though, this is a fight Democrats — and the White House – want to have, for substantive and political reasons. So they may introduce the amendments before the DOMA decision comes down — forcing a public battle with the GOP over gay rights.
That would theoretically gin up the right wing base, forcing Republicans to rail against — and vote against — the simple act of extending a bill many of them support, i.e., immigration reform, to cover gay married couples, too. That would again reveal the GOP’s unwillingness to evolve on gay marriage along with the rest of the country, at a time when even some Republican officials and strategists are urging the party to develop a more tolerant and inclusive aura, something that is being made impossible by the refusal of most Republican voters to accept the inevitable.
[emphasis mine]
It’s a bigger challenge to get the amendments in the bill on the floor, of course. It will take 60 votes for the Senate to include the amendments on the floor, whereas if the committee had included it, Republican opponents would have needed 60 votes to strip the amendments on the floor. If there’s a serious push, it may happen, but if it’s just to “forc[e] a public battle with the GOP over gay rights[]” then inclusion of the amendments would ultimately be more about discussing the issue of LGBT inclusion and less about doing the work to include LGBT people. The Court’s ruling, expected by late June, may be a critical factor in Congress’ decision.
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Senator Leahy Interview on Upcoming Immigration Bill

“Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy shrugged off concerns that offering rights to gay immigrants will kill the sweeping immigration bill as his committee prepares to mark up the legislation on Thursday.

On this particular issue, you know, at some point we’re going to have to face it, and we have to decide when is the best time to face it, […]You can’t go into a state like mine or — it will be now 11 or 12 states and the District of Columbia — where same-sex marriage is legal, and say to this couple, ‘OK, we can help you with the immigration matter.’ Turn to another couple equally legally married and say, ‘Oh, we have to discriminate against you.’

…He circles back several times to how he wants the process of developing what could be the biggest changes to immigration law in decades to be ‘fair’ and transparent and for all stakeholders to be heard.

‘Both parties, they want … an immigration bill — and the devil is always in the details, and we’ll have to see, but I’m not going to go through all this work and get some little cosmetic bill,’

he said.”

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Official Amendment to Include Same-Sex Couples in Immigration Reform Proposed by Senator Leahy

Earlier today  “Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has formally offered an amendment that would provide equal treatment for same-sex couples under immigration law, a proposal that’s likely to spark a heated debate.

Leahy’s amendment would allow gay and lesbian American citizens who are in a “long-term committed relationship” to sponsor their foreign partners for a green card, according to his office. Heterosexual couples can do so under current law, but a provision for same-sex couples was left out of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill.”

According to the Gang of Eight, their main reason for skirting the bi-national couple issue is that they believed its inclusion would prevent the bill from being passed by the Senate. While this is a valid fear and compromise is key for any type of immigration reform to pass, it is a shallow fear that does not give a voice to the thousands of brave LGBT immigrants and their families who endure so many unnecessary hardships simply because of who they love. For once I wish politicians would take a chance on the road less traveled to create a more equal future rather than appeasing the narrow platform on which they were elected.

“Leahy’s amendment has long been expected, but it could be one of the most controversial proposals to be debated this week, when the judiciary committee will “mark up” the bill with amendments.”

Link to article: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/leahy-offers-amendment-include-gay-couples-immigration-bill/story?id=19128457#.UYmji-g8wkM

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