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Same-Sex Couples Struggle to Stay Together Despite U.S. Laws

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012   Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Media Contact: Heather Cronk, [email protected], 202-505-5217

Amos Lim, [email protected], 347-Out-4Imm

Couple Divided by U.S. Law Call on Elected Officials to Help Make the Holidays Happier
As Congress Begins to Navigate Immigration Reform, Same-Sex Couples Call for Leadership and Solutions

SACRAMENTO, CA — As Americans across the country prepare Thanksgiving
dishes and celebrate the holiday with family, some Americans are forced
to observe the holiday alone — separated from their loved ones by U.S.
law. Gina, an American citizen, and Katie, a citizen of the United
Kingdom, are just one example of a couple struggling to stay together
despite an unfair and unjust combination of U.S. marriage and
immigration laws.

For over 36,000 binational same-sex couples, holidays are times of
sadness and loneliness, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
(LGBT) Americans are prohibited from sponsoring their same-sex partner
for immigration purposes by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Despite
the White House’s refusal to defend the law in court, Congressional
Republicans have spent $1.5 million defending the law in 14 pending
cases — hitting the spending limit set forth with the approval of the
Committee on House Administration (link here: http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2012/10/17/boehners-doma-defense-hits-15-million-limit).

This Thanksgiving holiday, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration are
publishing the stories of just a handful of couples directly impacted by
this discriminatory law, and who could be immediately helped by passing
an LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill. Recently, both
House/Senate Republicans and House/Senate Democrats have talked about
introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the new
Congressional session — and tens of thousands of couples’ lives hang in
the balance as those negotiations begin.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the Senators representing Gina, has
repeatedly rebuffed requests from binational same-sex couples to
co-sponsor a piece of legislation called the Uniting American Families
Act (UAFA), which would allow for these couples to keep their families
together even in light of DOMA. As the 112th Congress draws to a close
and the 113th Congress begins in January, binational same-sex couples
like Gina and Katie are again calling on Senator Feinstein to publicly
indicate her support for a legislative remedy for these couples.

As the holiday season approaches, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration are
asking Congressional leaders to include LGBT families in all
conversations about comprehensive immigration reform, desperately needed
by thousands of American citizens living separated, exiled, or in the
shadows in order to be with the person they love. Below is the story of
Gina and Katie, a couple united by love but divided by law:

Cats Over Couples – Gina and Katie

Over five years ago, Katie
and I met through mutual friends. The connection was immediate, and we
spent the next week learning everything we could about one another until
she had to return back home to the United Kingdom. As I sat in my house
in Sacramento, I felt a deep sense of devastation – it was impossible
to comprehend that I might have met the love of my life, only to be kept
apart by discriminatory laws. Neither of us had ever thought about – or
even heard of – the unjust laws that binational same-sex couples face
each day. But as we remained in contact with one another and as our
relationship developed, it became crystal clear what hurdles couples
face simply to be with the person they love.

Over the past five years, Katie and I have had more than our fair
share of struggles. The lengths we’ve gone to in order to be together
have been financially, mentally, and physically burdensome – and it’s
often a mystery to our friends how we have managed to stay together when
we’re only able to see each other a few times a year. We maintain that
we will not let the law destroy our love – and we’ll do whatever we have
to do in order to stand together.

Across the years, we’ve faced unemployment, depression, accidents,
and other trauma – similar to other couples, but with the added stress
of not being able to face those challenges together and to lean on one
another.

Last year, we had finally had enough and decided that it was time for
me to live in the UK on a visitor’s visa. I had never overstayed my
welcome in the UK before and knew that our time together would be too
short, but it was our only option. I quit my job, packed up my
belongings, and prepared our two cats for the long travel abroad. Once I
arrived in the UK, I was immediately stopped. After a series of very
personal questions, I was told that I was too old to be traveling for
any substantial length of time, and that I should be married with a
house and children at home in America. Over the course of the next 12
hours, I was held in two different detention centers, my belongings were
searched thoroughly, and my personal journal was read by multiple
officials – simply because of who I love. I was refused entry to the
country in order to see my spouse – though our two cats were welcomed in
with no trouble.

We have tried everything possible to legally be together – a (denied)
visa application in the UK, a short-term student visa application in
the U.S., and everything else we can think of. Katie and I will never
stop fighting for the justice and we and so many other binational
same-sex couples deserve. We believe that, by sharing our story, more
people will understand the hurdles we face – and the very clear
solutions to those hurdles. So many couples like us live in fear and are
forced to stay in the shadows – but we believe it is our responsibility
to speak up for those who have not yet found their voice.

How many more holidays must we go through apart? Will we have to
celebrate our ten-year anniversary over the phone, as we celebrated our
five-year anniversary? There is no reason for the United States to
maintain these unjust laws other than bigotry, pure and simple. But we,
as Americans, can choose to stand up and tell the government that we
will no longer endure the pain and suffering being inflicted upon
American citizens. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform that
includes LGBT families so that we can truly be the land of the free.

###

GetEQUAL is a national civil rights organization fighting for the
full legal equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
Americans. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of
GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action
to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those
who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit:
http://www.getequal.org. You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at
http://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube at
http://www.youtube.com/getequal.


Out4Immigration is a volunteer grassroots organization that
addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws
on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV+ people and
their families through education, outreach, advocacy and the maintenance
of a resource and support network. You can find more about
Out4Immigration online at www.out4immigration.org, on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/out4immigration, on Twitter at
www.twitter.com/out4immigration, or on Tumblr at
www.unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com.


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