Do Ask! Do Tell!
Washington, DC. In a month that began with President Obama proclaiming June 2009 LGBT Pride Month, families across the nation can follow three events that may herald the end of discrimination against gay and lesbian US citizens with partners from another country. Tomorrow, on June 3rd, the Senate Judiciary Committee headed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) will hold a Hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), aimed at ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in the immigration law. The second is the immigration summit President Obama is calling on June 8th, to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. This reform will include UAFA-like language. The third is the briefing of the LGBT Equality Caucus on UAFA, where an expected 90 members of Congress will push for immigration reform for same sex binational couples.
Two people who are well-known to the Love Exiles community will witness tomorrow at the Senate Hearing, Gordon Stewart and Shirley Tan.
Gordon Stewart, an American citizen who is unable to sponsor his Brazilian partner of 9 years to live with him in the USA, presently lives in the United Kingdom. We expect that Gordon will describe his anger at being denied a home in his native US, while being welcome in the UK.
We anticipate that the senators will be equally moved by Shirley Tan’s story. We first met Shirley and her family in March of this year, when we, together with Melanie Nathan, and later Out4Immigration and Immigration Equality, worked with the media and politicians to keep Ms Tan and her family in California. Shirley Tan is a Pacifica, California housewife, active in her local church, mother of two 12 year old sons and partner of 23 years to her female partner, Jay Mercado. In January this year the immigration service entered her house under false pretences, then arrested her and carried her off in handcuffs to a detention centre. Her partner is a US citizen and her sons are US citizens, and if she had been in a heterosexual relationship her partner would have been able to protect her from this injustice. But this family’s relationship is not recognized for immigration purposes. If Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) had not intervened by introducing a Private Bill to allow Ms Tan to continue to live in California, Ms Tan would have been deported in May this year.
Two other witnesses for UAFA are the chair of the famous National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Co-Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Immigrants, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities of the American Bar Association. Two witnesses will appear that are opposed to expanding the categories of people that may have immigration rights.
LGBT immigration righjts are included in the comprehensive immigration reform that Congress will be discussing later this month. And although 90 members of Congress are members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, many more votes are needed to pass this reform. We urge love exiles everywhere to contact your elected representative and urge them to support comprehensive immigration reform. Tell them your story and why it is important for you that you have the right to return to your country with the person you love.
Watch the Hearing live on http://www.senate.gov/Senate404.html