Do Ask! Do Tell!
Love Exiles from the United States of America are looking at the light at the end of a long tunnel, with the likely ending of DOMA. The Obama Administration has announced it is no longer willing to defend DOMA in federal lawsuits related to the act. The future now depends on the outcome of a number of standing lawsuits.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a major obstacle to US LGBT citizens with foreign partners being able to live in the US. With the Obama Administration’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, many Love Exiles are daring to think they will be able to return to the US with their legal spouse.
Love Exiles are binational LGBT couples who do not have the freedom to live in either or both countries of citizenship of the partners. The Netherlands is home to many Love Exiles from the United States, living here with their Dutch or European partner because it is possible here but not in the US. Immigration law in the United States recognizes only heterosexual marriages. US citizens who want to sponsor their partner to live with them in the United States must marry. DOMA has stood in the way of immigration reform for LGBT families. DOMA has meant that each state in the nation chooses whether the institution of marriage can be opened to LGBT couples – and whether that state recognizes the legal union formed between two people of the same sex in other states or abroad. Getting rid of DOMA will open the way for US immigration law to acknowledge marriages between binational same-sex couples.
A ‘tipping point’ in the demise of DOMA seems to be Edith (Edie) Windsor’s lawsuit. When her Dutch-born wife Thea Spyer died, after a partnership spanning 44 years, the government sent Edith a large tax bill for Thea’s part of their shared property. Edie went to court demanding their relationship be recognized as family, in which case the state would not tax her. On reviewing the case, the Obama administration recognized blatant anti-gay discrimination and announced it was not willing to defend DOMA.
Love Exiles are now full of hope that they will be able to return to their country and their families, bringing their foreign partner with them. People are asking the Love Exiles Foundation questions like “When can we go home?” “Can I sue for a Green Card?”
The Love Exiles Foundation was set up in 2002 in Amsterdam in the first place to let Love Exiles know they are not alone, and to influence US lawmakers to stop discriminating LGBT families in US immigration law.
In 2007 Love Exiles board members Bob Bragar and Martha McDevitt-Pugh addressed the LGBT caucus at the Democratic National Convention. They spoke with Brian Bond and Andy Tobias, both influential Democrats, and acquainted them with the issues of Americans living in exile for love. That same week Bob Bragar spoke with presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama asked “Where do you live?” Bob said “Amsterdam, the Netherlands.” Obama asked why and Bob explained that US law and the Defense of Marriage Act bars US citizens from bringing their same-sex partners to America, so he had to move abroad.” Obama was visibly moved and said “That’s not fair!”
The Love Exiles board had earlier prepared the resolution on the Uniting American Families Act, and Act designed to add the words “ And permanent partners” to the US immigration law. Democrats Abroad took on the resolution, which later also became the basic text of the City of San Francisco’s resolution on UAFA. “We have done a lot for this win,” says Bob Bragar, now chair of Democrats Abroad in the Netherlands.
Love Exiles has groups in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. Founder and Chair Martha McDevitt-Pugh is happy with the imminent demise of DOMA. “But don’t forget, there are only 5 States in the US where LGBT people can marry. If one of the partners lives in Florida, and the other in say, Kenya, they cannot marry and they are still faced with an immigration law that will not accommodate them. We have to change the immigration law to recognize permanent partners, not just spouses.”
“President Obama’s principled stand is sure to reignite a heated debate in the U.S.,” says Amsterdam resident Robert Checkoway, a Love Exile and global vice chair of Democrats Abroad. “It clearly affirms his commitment to the fair treatment of all LGBT Americans going into his re-election campaign.”
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For more information:
Martha McDevitt-Pugh: + 31 6 21504249
Bob Bragar: +31 6 15094959