Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marriage equality and immigration

The video above is Matt Baume’s weekly update on marriage equality, “This Week in Prop 8”. In this video, he talks with Lavi Soloway about a recent court case blocking the deportation of a lesbian’s wife because the couple were legally married (starting around 1:40). The US Government doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage for any purpose whatsoever, including immigration, because of the infamous “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). Up until now, legal marriage would not prevent the deportation of a same-sex spouse.

The main basis of the ruling was that DOMA will inevitably be repealed or overturned. No one seriously doubts that, but it’s significant for a court to assert it and use it as a rationale for stopping deportation of a legally-married spouse of a gay or lesbian American citizen.

As I was writing this post, news broke that the US Immigration and Citizenship Services announced that, again because of questions about the validity of DOMA, they’re putting enforcement partly “in abeyance”, and that may mean that foreigners who are married to a US citizen of the same-sex, and who would otherwise be eligible for residency, might not face deportation. Previously, if a US citizen married to a same-sex spouse filed an I-130 to gain residence for their spouse, it would’ve been rejected because of DOMA, leaving their spouse subject to deportation. Now, the petitions will be held “in abeyance” and, since they won’t be acted on, deportation efforts will probably slow, too.

The problem is that the US, unlike many other countries in the world (including New Zealand), offers no way for US citizens to sponsor their partner unless they’re legally married to them, and DOMA prevents the recognition of legal marriages when the couple is same-sex. So, there’s no way for gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their spouse for immigration purposes because, under DOMA, they have no relationship whatsoever. Up until now, the US Government could—and did—rip bi-national couples apart. This is why US Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chief sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, referred to current law as “gratuitous cruelty.”

Bringing about the end of DOMA is important for a variety of reasons, including immigration. But even that won’t help all bi-national couples, such as those in informal committed relationships or civil unions. This is why broader immigration reform is still needed. Achieving marriage equality and immigration reform are not mutually exclusive, and each one addresses things the other doesn’t.

One other thing struck me about this video: Matt referred to “the anti-gay industry”, though he may have done that in an earlier video and I missed it. In any case, I think it’s the perfect name for our opponents. This neatly gets away from using religion-related names that also taint non-evil religious people. And, it seems to me, it also points out that for many in this “anti-gay industry”, money and power are very often bigger motivation than religion. And that, too, is a good thing to remember.

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