Word from Washington is that LGBT people will be left out of “comprehensive” (so-called) immigration reform. Does it matter?
First things first: This matters VERY much to me. If immigration reform doesn’t include LGBT people, then Americans like me will still have to choose between love and one’s homeland. Let’s be blunt: It can’t be called “comprehensive” if it deliberately excludes LGBT people. Even so, no, I don’t think it matters.
When the infamous Defense [sic] of Marriage Act is repealed or struck down, then legally married LGBT couples will be treated the same as any other married couple for immigration purposes. We don’t need immigration reform for this, we just need a wise Supreme Court or a—what’s the word?—sensible Congress to make this happen. It can be done, and it must be done.
But married couples aren’t the only issue.
US immigration law doesn’t recognise ANY couple's relationship* other than marriage (unlike many countries, including New Zealand). So, in the USA, heterosexuals who aren’t married have similar problems to LGBT couples—with one HUGE difference: They can always marry and change the status of their relationship in the eyes of US immigration authorities; LGBT couples cannot do that at the moment, no matter how many decades they’re legally married.
What is needed is for the USA to catch up with other developed countries and provide recognition of relationships aside from marriage. The point here is the happiness of US citizens, who ought to be able to sponsor their partners, whether they’re legally married or not. This MUST be included in anything politicians dare to call comprehensive immigration reform.
However, as long as unmarried heterosexual couples are as disadvantaged as unmarried same-gender couples, I’m not all that bothered by our exclusion from “comprehensive” immigration reform. If Congress moves to deliberately exclude us, THAT would be something worth being upset about (and I have no doubt that Republicans would like to specifically exclude us).
The point is, and always has been, equality: LGBT couples should be treated exactly the same as heterosexual couples. So, if only legally married couples are recognised for immigration, then ALL legally married couples must be recognised, including same-gender couples. If non-married couples are recognised, then all non-married couples must be recognised. Simple, really.
I am keenly aware that activists argue differently. Were I an activist, I might, too. Instead, I’m just a guy who had to choose between love and my homeland, and I chose love. I don’t want other people to have to make that choice, but if it’s at least a level playing field, then I think that’s progress.
Treat LGBT couples the same as heterosexual couples, first and most importantly. Then, make US law catch up with other countries and recognise couples in non-marriage relationships. Fairness. Equality. Surely these words must be at the centre of any immigration reform called comprehensive!
So, LGBT couples are, for now, left out of comprehensive immigration reform. As long as we’re treated the same as heterosexual couples, you won’t see me complaining about that treatment. But that patience will not last forever.
And don't call it comprehensive until it really is.
*Most countries, including the US, do recognise family relationships (like parent/child, for example), but for couples, the US recognises nothing but marriage.