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USCIS: Allow Love, and Say Yes to Keeping Our Families in the US

by Chris Barnett, cross-posted from Daily Kos and Out4Immigration’s blog

This posting is dedicated to Gina, who is soon exiling herself from her home on the West Coast to be with her partner in the UK. We should be ashamed to let ourselves lose this good citizen as she does what she must for herself, and for love.

For Americans in same-gender relationships with non-US citizens (or binationals as we refer to ourselves), the fight to try and secure the right to sponsor our partners for legal residency so that they can be with us in the US has been a long, and often dispiriting one. So it is not surprising that our community has been thrown into a tumult with word this week that the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) was considering the possible changes as to how our families are treated under the law, following the Administration’s recent change in stance re: DOMA.

From Jennifer Vanasco at 365gay.com just two days ago:

Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS [U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services] districts, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, informed attorneys from the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association that cases in their districts involving married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold. The news could have far-reaching effects.

Questions have been swirling because of course no one knows exactly what this meant, and in fact what seemed like potential for reprieve quickly went into backpedal mode, with emphasis on the fact that the abeyance would likely only endure short-term, as USCIS considered implications of the Administration’s stance and what that might mean for changes in policy. Yesterday, we found out that USCIS press secretary Christopher S. Bentley was stating:


“The cases were held while we were waiting for legal guidance. There’s no need to hold the cases any longer.”

Essentially, what we hoped would be an end to our partners being deported, seems like a crumb tossed out instead, and cruelly so. With the abeyance now lifted, the best binational couples can now hope for–especially those facing deportation proceedings–is case-by-case review. Still, it seems a door has cracked open, and this issue is coming into the public eye with much greater frequency and to a much greater degree than ever before. This is, I guess, a good thing–yet even so, Mr. Bentley states a falsehood, that there is no need to hold the cases any longer. The denial of the right of LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign partners has severe consequences not only for the couples involved, but for all who love and count on them. It also inherently diminishes ALL of our families and relationships. In fact, the biased and misguided laws which penalize us for who we love–and by extension all those who love and count on us–are the main reason to hold these cases, in perpetuity!

Currently, Americans in same-gender binational relationships have these choices: leave the country to live in one that acknowledges our families; try to maintain the relationships long distance, which frequently leads to a ban on our partners coming in to the country due to the federal government viewing them as overstay risks; be torn apart and give up the chance for the family we should all be so fortunate to find; or recognize that the law is afoul of our families, and relegate ourselves to the shadows to live with our undocumented partners. This situation must end! No one should have to give up being American in America, and all that means, because of who they love.

Binationals have been working on this issue for years, as well as organizations like Out4Immigration, and others. Much of the focus in this effort has been on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a bill which would open family reunification to LGBT people and their loved ones. Stop the Deportations/The DOMA Project is also a good place to follow day-by-day developments as the terrain continues to shift. While recent developments bring up more questions than answers, what is clearly and quickly emerging is that the time to lobby policy makers only has passed, and we must now also engage those who are as well enforcing the cruel laws that rip apart the lives of citizens.

Those of us who are affected know that the time is past for this cruel implication of DOMA to be relegated to the dustbin of overturned, prejudiced policies. Now, we need help. Out4Immigration is running a petition at Change.org to appeal to the President, Secretary Napolitano, and the USCIS as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop deporting our partners. Will you help?


Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Promoting the petition doesn’t hurt, too! Thanks, everyone!





eQualityThinking Panel #16: Grand Finale Panel

Don’t miss the sixteenth panel of eQualityThinking, the free, open, virtual convention for LGBTQ equality. This is the final panel.

You can hear this panel live today Thursday, March 31, 2011 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm to 4:00 pm PDT)

Click to get the dialing information for this eQualityThinking panel.

eQualityThinking-logoIn the last two months, we have held 16 panels, with 82 top panelists and 27 question moderators. We covered the topic of LGBT legal equality in depth and breadth.

In our final panel today, we bring you three people who are Thinking Bigger and Acting Differently to advance LGBT equality in three very different ways.

Please allow us to keep you in suspense about who the three great panelists actually are. Can you guess?


- First Panelist: A fearless Member of Congress who will use a DIFFERENT approach to BIG legislation for LGBT equality.

- Second Panelist: A person, whom you may have not heard of yet, who is creating a BIG organization with a DIFFERENT approach to LGBT issues like never seen before.

- Third Panelist: A person who came out two years ago and went BIG time in a DIFFERENT way to help change the law.

The political reporter of the oldest LGBT newspaper in the nation

TAKE ACTION for equality now

Dear USCIS: Don’t Go Back to Denying Green Cards to Loving, Same-Sex Couples

On Monday, March 28th, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that it would hold off on processing green card applications from married, same-sex couples that were being routinely denied the right to remain together. Thinking USCIS would hold these cases until the legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was resolved, advocates for LGBT and immigrant rights celebrated a step forward for basic justice.

Sadly, the Obama administration is backtracking already. Officials are telling the media that same-sex couples could go back to being denied a life together in less than a week. Thousands of couples would again be faced with the prospect of choosing between the person they love and the country they call home.

Perhaps USCIS, DHS, and the White House need a reminder that these are real people’s lives they are toying with. Sign the petition urging USCIS to stand by its original decision to hold off on processing green card applications for loving same-sex couples, at least until DOMA can be decided.



TAKE ACTION for equality now


INTRO:  We have a non-transparent, non-democratic, oligarchical movement powered by a monied elite, and our openly gay and lesbian members of Congress do not consult publicly and openly with our community on our movement strategy and legislative agenda.

Is this consistent with our liberal values?

How long will we allow this to continue?

Almost 100 people sent this email yesterday.  Join the FB Action here:



[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Give LGBT People A Voice In Their Own Liberation

Dear Representatives Cicillini, Polis, Baldwin & Frank,

We the people of the LGBT community, 25 million or so strong, deserve a voice in our liberation struggle and strategy. Yet, the process by which you, HRC, NGLTF and others, determine our fate is a secret insiders-game, which precludes public scrutiny and participation, ultimately denying us our right to self-determination.

As you know, HRC, NGLTF, and the others, are not democratically run, but are controlled by an elite group of donors in a non-transparent manner. Similarly, with respect, you are not elected by an LGBT community process, and while gay and lesbian, have no official mandate to decide our fate without an appropriate consultative process, which our organizations do not fulfill.

Given this reality, we request that you please work together in common cause and public consultation with our community in three specific ways:

1. We ask that the LGBT Equality Caucus hold public open meetings on our movement strategy and legislative agenda;

2. We ask that you revisit the splintered and unorganized manner in which LGBT-related bills are filed; and,

3. We urge you to work openly and publicly with the community to discuss filing a bill seeking full Civil Rights Equality for “sexual orientation and gender identity” under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and related laws, as outlined in The American Equality Bill.

As liberals, we expect you to believe in the ideals of transparency, democracy and accountability. We believe that if we adhere to these ideals and open the insider system, together we can build a mass movement worthy of our cause in which we all participate in our individual and collective liberation.

This is our right, and your responsibility. Please give us a voice.

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

BACKGROUND STORY (not for inclusion in email).

There are FOUR gay & lesbian people now in Congress, listed here in order of seniority. Obviously, none of them are elected by an LGBT community process, nor represent predominantly LGBT populated districts (though we’re studying this more closely).

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA-4) (1981)
Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) (1999)
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO-2) (2009)
Representative David Cicillini (D-RI-1) (2011)

In 2008, FRANK & BALDWIN formed a House LGBT Equality Caucus, which is growing but not coordinating on strategy. (http://lgbt.tammybaldwin.house.gov/).


As it stands, unfortunately each member continues to work a personal strategy, filing separate bills like pet projects, working around turf held by more senior members. (listen to Baldwin reveal this on this recorded public conference call by eQualityThinking: http://bit.ly/eqThinkingBaldwinCall).

Last Congress, they filed, along with others, roughly 15 LGBT-related bills in an incredibly unorganized, uncoordinated fashion. (see http://bit.ly/LGBTbills111thCongress).

Amidst the chaos, there is NO PUBLIC PROCESS by which the LGBT community is consulted on our legislative agenda or movement strategy.

As for results under this system, the LGBT movement began in 1950, and so far, not a single federal non-discrimination law has been passed. Worse yet, we’re not even seeking full equality today, although for 20 years (from 1974 to 1994) we were. But we gave up after AIDS decimated our community, and have yet to rebound, despite a sea change in public opinion and a mixed-race President, himself a product of the Civil Rights Laws we helped establish almost 50 years ago, which still exclude SO+GI.

1. FRANK’S Project: On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, Rep. FRANK will reintroduce a bill covering only “employment discrimination” called ENDA, which he has been filing for 17 years without passage. (http://bit.ly/FrankENDAagain).

2. POLIS’ Project: Meanwhile, Rep. POLIS will likely file a bill for “school discrimination” called the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and other related bills.

3. BALDWIN’s Project: Rep. BALDWIN will file a bill for “health care discrimination,” which goes to over 10 different committees.

4. CICILLINI’s – NEW HOPE: Thankfully, the newbie, Representative CICILLINI, former Mayor of RI, is talking “omnibus bill” but he’s still getting settled in, and is likely to defer to Frank and others for sometime. (http://bit.ly/CicilliniOmnibus).


Ultimately, it is a tenure protocol and hierarchy that’s keeping us down, and FRANK is in charge, make no doubt about it.

BALDWIN and POLIS have both said they support the filing of a full Civil Rights bill, but neither will do it. CICILLINI has suggested the same.

FRANK, by contrast, has argued against the idea aggressively, making any argument he can muster, but mostly that it would meet with resistance from our ALLIES in the Black Caucus. He’s after all, the KING of one-sided compromise!

In filing ENDA only again, FRANK argues that it’s an “organizing tool” because the Republican House won’t pass it. Of course, the bill didn’t pass under the Democratic House & White House either, and the organizing he speaks of is equally invisible.

BUT IF IT’S AN organizing tool, why not FILE A BILL for FULL CIVIL RIGHTS EQUALITY and give us something BIG to organize around?

If we’re focused on ORGANIZING, why not organize within our own community, and create a public process to engage all of us?

Why is this Frank’s personal call? Why are the others accepting this? Why are we?

CLEARLY it is the LACK OF PROCESS in this game of secrets that keeps US OUT OF THE CONVERSATION and more progressive voices down. So we need to ask:



1. Representative Barney Frank (MA)
Chief of Staff: [email protected]

2. Representative Tammy Baldwin (WI)
Chief of Staff: [email protected]

3. Representative Jared Polis (CO)
Chief of Staff: [email protected]

4. Representative David Cicilline (RI)
LGBT Liaison: [email protected]

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First Steps on Same-Sex Binationals Path to Green Cards

crossposted from Out4Immigration’s blog…. by Kathy Drasky

Today’s breaking story in Newsweek that two USCIS districts—Washington, DC and Baltimore—have informed attorneys from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that cases in their districts involving the green card applications of married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold is the second major step this year toward green cards for same-sex binationals. (The first step was the February 23 decision by the Obama Administration that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional.) Prior to the DOMA decision, these applications were routinely dismissed and deportations were carried out because DOMA rendered same-sex married couples “legal strangers”.

Combined, these two steps do more to end immigration inequality against same-sex binational couples than everything we’ve worked on since the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (the precursor to the Uniting American Families Act, UAFA) was first introduced in 2000. However, make no mistake that the work that has preceded these two monumental shifts toward ending the gratuitous cruelty that shuts out same-sex married couples from the same rights as opposite-sex married couples has as its bedrock the grassroots advocacy of a handful of groups who have worked to raise awareness in some of the darkest days of the Bush Administration (remember those?) and these first two years of Obama, as well as the unwavering support of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

What does the USCIS announcement really mean to you if you are a married same-sex binational couple? First, seek the advice of a competent and trusted immigration attorney. And, if you are uncomfortable with the advice you receive, get a second opinion – or even a third. The best place to start is with the law firm Masliah and Soloway, they are the founders of Immigration Equality, have co-authored the original PPIA legislation and now run the Stop the Deportations Project. Lavi Soloway has been the attorney for a number of the couples whose cases have recently been put on hold by immigration judges, who, following President Obama’s order to stop defending DOMA, have decided that they cannot make a ruling against a same-sex binational couple’s green card case without using DOMA to block it. As a result, the decisions in these cases have been delayed.

Second, note the key word here is “delayed”. The optimists among us like to believe DOMA will be gone by the end of the year. Pessimists think it will take 10 years and there will be numerous setbacks along the way. The reality is none of us know how long this will take, but if we look at any civil rights history, once a movement gains momentum, and that momentum becomes relentless, barriers tend to come down faster than expected. And that’s where all of us come in – whether we are a married same-sex binational couple supported by an immigration attorney’s advice to file the I-130, or a couple advised against marrying and/or filing right now, we need to tell our stories at every opportunity.

In the past 10 years it is our stories that have helped us make progress each small step of the way. From individuals who financed their own trips to Washington DC, who visited their representatives in their home offices, who wrote letters and made phone calls – these actions led to the record 161 co-sponsors of UAFA in the last session of Congress, got us a Congressional hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led to more than 30 cities and one state (California) sponsoring resolutions supporting same-sex binationals and put us in at least two Comprehensive Immigration Reform bills (with promises of inclusion in others).

It is this work by all of us in the LGBT immigration rights community and our allies in the marriage equality movement that has led to what is happening now.

There are three clear goals now in sight that we all need to work on together:

1) A national policy of abeyance (i.e., putting same-sex binationals’ green card applications on hold until DOMA can be resolved one way or the other). According to Christopher Nugent, who chairs the immigrant-rights committee for the American Bar Association and has testified before the Senate on immigrant benefits and DOMA, the two individual USCIS districts are unlikely to be making the decision to put green card applications from same-sex binationals on hold on their own. He suggests that the shift in practice is a national one because “they can’t do that in two jurisdictions and not do it in other jurisdictions.” How to accomplish: If you are able, seek the advice of an immigration attorney and weigh your options for getting married and if you can get married (or already are married), file the I-130 form (with appropriate legal counsel).

2) Repeal DOMA. More than 50% of Americans support marriage equality. Nearly 70% support gay and lesbian couples having the same rights as heterosexual couples. Keep repeal DOMA in the headlines. Use your social media tools like Facebook to circulate stories and get those on the sidelines to become active supporters.

3) Champion UAFA. The bill that would add three words to current immigration law “or permanent partner” wherever the word “spouse” appears is scheduled to be reintroduced in Congress very soon. With USCIS delaying decisions on green cards due to the fragile state of DOMA as law of the land, the time has never been better than to showcase the justice this bill will deliver to gay and lesbian American citizens with foreign partners.

If you have not joined Out4Immigration yet either via our Yahoo Groups list or Facebook page (or both), please sign up today. Those of you already working with us know that we will bring you the news and the calls to action via these two channels as it happens. Want to be more involved in community outreach, communications or in helping us launch creative ways to get those green cards? Email us at [email protected]

Kathy Drasky is a volunteer media coordinator for Out4Immigration.


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eQualityThinking Panel #15: Your Passion, Your Voice

Don’t miss the fifteenth panel of eQualityThinking, the free, open, virtual convention for LGBTQ equality.

You can hear this panel live this Sunday, March 27, 2011 from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm EDT (4:00 pm to 5:00 pm PDT)

Click to get the dialing information for this eQualityThinking panel.

eQualityThinking-logoYou will hear from five filmmakers whose films are likely to have an impact on people’s perception of LGBT.

You will hear from our youth… their own perspective… their own voice.

You will hear from next generation donors.

You will hear from four of the authors of The Dallas Principles. What has been the impact two years later?

You will hear from the webmaster and users of Act On Principles… an innovative platform to do whip counts and focus our efforts to reach lawmakers to pass LGBT equality legislation.

Do not miss this panel!


Filmakers, producers, writers talk about their work

  • Brynn Gelbard, Director/Producer, Devote Campaign
  • Craig Harwood, Producer/Writer, The Most Famous Woman in the World
  • Christopher Mason, Filmmaker, Driving Equality
  • Patrick Sammon, Filmmaker, The Genius of Alan Turing
  • Bruce Presley, Founder, Downtown Loft Studio

Several youth will contribute their voice here to the dialog about LGBT equality.

  • Carolyn Laub, Executive Director, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, will introduce the youth panelists.

New ideas? Different approaches?

  • Wesley Adams, Co-chair, Young Leaders Council of the New York Gay & Lesbian Center
  • Bill Lyons, Next Gen Giving Circle

Four of the authors of The Dallas Principles talk about impact 2 years later

  • John Bare, Donor
  • Ken Ahonen-Jover, M.D., Co-founder, eQualityGiving
  • Dana Beyer, M.D., Board Member, National Center for Transgender Equality  and Keshnet, the national Jewish LGBT education and outreach organization
  • Lisa Polyak, Board Member, Equality Maryland

Advanced technology used to monitor how Members of Congress intend to vote on our issues (whip counts)

  • Donald Hitchcock, Webmaster, Act On Principles
  • Heather Cronk, Managing Director, Get Equal

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Richard Walks For Civil Rights & the AEB: Two Weeks of Media Coverage & Official Recognition

Showing that ONE person can make a difference, Richard Noble is bringing the message of full civil rights equality to City Council members, State legislators and Congress people all over California, on his journey walking across America.

Already the City of West Hollywood, Congresswoman Lee, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have issued Proclamations, Resolutions, and other certificates of honor recognizing both his historic walk and the call for the America Equality Bill.

Here below is a list so far of the media coverage and official recognition.

All LGBT media and bloggers are urged to pump up the volume for this historic action.

Only by supporting activists in these efforts, will we encourage more heroes to take up the cause for full federal equality.

13_11_Noble_Walk_11_LRGTo follow this walk, join Richard’s FB page, or join Richard Walks for Civil Rights, under the AEB Project.







Radio Interview – Bulldog Bill Feingold & Richard: http://podcasts.sixradiosites.com/knews/audio/bf011311hr2.mp3

2nd Radio Interview: http://podcasts.sixradiosites.com/knews/audio/bf022511hr2.mp3


City of West Hollywood: Proclamation & City Counsel Resolution, & Press statement & Presentation Ceremony (Mayor Heilman at 13:00 min in): Each for AEB and Walk.


San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Certificate of Honor: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=160642240655726&set=a.150172675036016.38753.100001298536785&theater








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eQualityThinking Panel #14: How Can Donors Accelerate Equality?

Don’t miss the fourteenth panel of eQualityThinking, the free, open, virtual convention for LGBTQ equality.

You can hear this panel live tomorrow Friday, March 25, 2011 from Noon to 1:00 pm EDT (9:00 am to 10:00 am PDT)

Click to get the dialing information for this eQualityThinking panel.

Click to post now an open question for the panelists.


Among the topics to be discussed:

- What are the current areas of focus for major donors?

- How do donors make choices between issues and organizations?

- How do they measure impact and evaluate success?

- How do they balance giving for political campaigns and non-profits?


- Ron Ansin, Founder, Ronald M. Ansin Foundation

- Joanne Herman, Author, Transgender Explained for Those Who Are Not

- Alix Ritchie, Founder, Provincetown Banner

- Paul Yandura, Cofounder, Scott+Yandura

Question Moderators

- Leslie Payne, Senior Director, Arabella Philanthropic Advisors

- Steve Rothaus, Journalist, Miami Herald

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eQualityThinking Panel #13: God and Gays

Don’t miss the thirteenth panel of eQualityThinking, the free, open, virtual convention for LGBTQ equality.

You can hear this panel live this Wednesday, March 23, 2011 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm to 4:00 pm PDT)

Click to get the dialing information for this eQualityThinking panel.

Click to post an open question for the panelists.


An emotionally charged issue discussed by a religiously diverse panel of clergy, activists, and writers.

- Reverend Dr. C Welton Gaddy (Baptist), President, Interfaith Alliance
- Amber Khan (Muslim), Board Member, Muslim Advocates
- Rabbi Jack Moline (Conservative Jewish), Agudas Achim Congregation
- Sarah Posner, Author, God’s Profits, Associate Editor, Religion Dispatches

Question Moderators:

- Ari Geller, Vice President, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications

- Donna Red Wing, Executive Director, Grassroots Leadership

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eQualityThinking Panel #12: Changing Hearts and Minds

Don’t miss the twelveth panel of eQualityThinking, the free, open, virtual convention for LGBTQ equality.

You can hear this panel live this Sunday March 20, 2011 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm EDT (2:30 pm to 3:30 pm PDT)

Click to get the dialing information for this eQualityThinking panel.

Click to post an open question for the panelists.

eQualityThinking-logoCombining rigorous academic thinking from Harvard and NYU with successful ground work to create new insights for winning hearts and minds. The discussion moderater is Roberta Achtenberg, commissioner on the US Commission on Civil Rights. There is no better place to spend an hour this Sunday afternoon than on this panel listening and participating.

The panelists are:

- Julie Davis, Executive Director, Face Value Project at Harvard

- Patrick J. Egan, Ph.D., Asst Professor, Political Science, New York University

- Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Ph.D., Lecturer and Director, Human Rights and Social Movements Program, Harvard Kennedy School

- Phyllis Watts, Ph.D., practicing psychologist and President, Wild Swan Resources

The question moderator is:

- Roberta Achtenberg, Commissioner, US Commission on Civil Rights