Saturday, March 09, 2013

Cruelty in law

The Defense [sic] of Marriage Act is one of the cruellest laws Congress has passed in the past 20 years. Immigration is another example of why that is.

Because of DOMA, the federal government cannot recognise a legal marriage between two people of the same gender for any federal purpose. But if DOMA is struck down or repealed, the government could immediately allow US citizens legally married to a non-citizen of the same gender to sponsor their spouse for immigration—in exactly the same way that a US citizen can currently sponsor their opposite-gender spouse. This would happen even without comprehensive immigration reform—all that’s required is to get rid of DOMA.

But the true cruelty of DOMA isn’t merely that it threatens to break up binational couples because their legal marriages aren’t recognised. No, the real cruelty is that because those marriages don’t exist in the eyes of immigration officials, a bi-national same-gender couple that marries may actually make things worse for the non-American spouse because immigration will see the marriage as evidence that the non-American intends to stay in the US after his/her visa expires, and so, immigration may refuse a new visa or revoke the one already in place. Getting rid of DOMA will fix that cruelty, too.

However, DOMA isn’t the only reason for the gratuitous cruelty of immigration law, and in this area it’s cruelty shared by heterosexuals.

The graphic above, again from the Facebook page of United for Marriage, shows the flags of countries that recognise the relationships of same-gender couples for immigration. Many of those countries—including New Zealand—don’t yet have or recognise legal marriages of same-gender couples, but they nevertheless have policies to allow citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-gender partner, whether they’re legally married or not.

Any sort of truly comprehensive immigration reform for the USA must add recognition of non-married same gender couples, just like so many other countries have. It must also apply that to both US citizens and permanent residents, again, as other countries do (in fact, proposals for this in the US Congress often do include both). However, getting rid of DOMA is necessary for any of that to happen.

A new report from The Williams Institute says “there are approximately 267,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult undocumented immigrant population and an estimated 637,000 LGBT-identified individuals among the adult documented immigrant population.” That’s some 900,000 LGBT-indentified immigrants.

They also said about documented immigrants in same-gender relationships:
  • There are an estimated 113,300 foreign born individuals (naturalized citizens and non-citizens) who are part of a same-sex couple. An estimated 54,600 of these individuals are not US citizens.
  • An estimated 32,300 same-sex couples are binational (one US citizen and one non-citizen) along with 11,700 same-sex couples comprised of two non-citizens.
  • Nearly 7,000 same-sex couples that include two non-citizens (58 percent) are raising an estimated 12,400 children under age 18.
None of that will be easy. It may not happen any time soon. But to end the gratuitous cruelty toward binational LGBT couples and their families, they must happen.

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