Breaking – President Clinton retracts on DOMA and its Impact on Immigration Equality

 09/26/09-by Melanie Nathan

It was just several months ago that White House officials were promising that President Obama would address immigration reform before the end of the year. It seems as if the LGBT immigration equality leadership has continued to hang its top hat on the passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, as being the only way the LGBT community can earn recognition in the immigration system, through the incorporation of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in the larger reform legislation.

When UAFA was introduced again this year in January by New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler,  it was hailed by the organizations and money was raised from our community in the name of this proposed stand-alone legislation.  We were all excited and on board for the big push.

However a mere six months later, (4th June 2009 ) even with a majority charged democratic congress we find the very leadership that had touted UAFA as the home run now touting Immigration Reform as the sooner mechanism for UAFA to become law.  The idea was that the LGBT community would lend its supporters of UAFA to the BIG immigration reform and then we would benefit from the reciprocity engendered by the larger BILL.

My earlier posts, stemming back to June of this year, will reflect my critique of Immigration Equality’s strategy and fear that we were being sold off and now my fear is further endorsed by one serious and dangerous miscalculation that not even I anticipated at the time.

Unfortunately what they never banked on was the strategy chosen by the White House.  Why Health Care reform ahead of immigration reform.  Since the commencement of Health Care reform negotiations, town hall meetings, confusion it has become an unanticipated debacle that will no doubt impact any and all attempts at immigration reform which will in turn put our Binational in yet another long haul wait.

To come out and say that UAFA has no traction in Congress and so we must rely on CIR is nothing short of defeatist on the part of those who took our money to fight for UAFA.  According to an article written for CNN this week by Ruben Navarrette Jr.  Immigration Reform is clearly not top on President Obama’s reform agenda.

“One thing that has thrown a wrench into the prospects for health care reform is the Joe Wilsonian concern that illegal immigrants might get free health care as a result of the reform process. Had that issue been addressed beforehand by giving illegal immigrants a path to earned legalization, that controversy might have been defused. Now Obama might walk away with nothing.  The political math for both kinds of reform only gets more difficult if Democrats lose seats in the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections, as is expected to happen.”

Somewhat scathing in his commentaryNavarrette continues “ And the same President who seems to understand that the longer he waits to accomplish health care reform, the more difficult it will be to get, doesn’t seem to understand the same is true with immigration reform.”

The President decided to attempt health care reform before immigration reform. An obvious mistake which our LGBT leadership failed to apprehend when boarding the CIR train- a train not only without cars but also without access to any tracks!  They’re well-aware of the resistance out there to giving illegal immigrants a path to earned legalization, which some refer to as amnesty – so now if health care fails or succeeds immigration reform will be hampered undoubtedly by the questions pertaining to immigrants and healthcare.

So unhappily I must report that we, the bi-national community are in dire straits.  We have so much going on in D.C. that is positive and encouraging yet at the same time, one track strategy sets us flailing in the wind. The worst thing one can offer a Binational is no hope of being in their homeland safely with their beloved.  How many are living as I write with fear of deportation, desperation to return from exile or success in renewing or obtaining a visa, as the case may be!

 After spending a week on Capital Hill, I have come to the conclusion that all the strategy in the world will not help those in desperate need now.   What has added to the quandary is the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act which seeks to repeal DOMA.   Reading prior posts on this site, you will not its difficult in the eyes of Rep. Barney Frank.  However I for one disagree with the Congressman. When speaking with a staffer this week, I was informed that Congressman Frank does not want to entertain a repeal of Doma until ENDA and HATE CRIMES pass.  Of course the latter is imperative. But strategy schmategy what could be more important than recognition of our relationships; how can we be expected to have our sexuality recognized when the relationships that  provide credence to our sexuality is denied by the law?

So now lets add to this fast developing scenario – one where maybe Binationals can see a glimmer of hope to their ever-fading sun… Since the introduction a mere two weeks ago of the Repeal Act, an architect of DOMA, has spoken against it and fully retracted his support of DOMA expressing his regret and how he felt duped. (See Huffingtom Post Blog )

“Proudly changing my position on DOMA (Rep. Earl Blumenauer  By Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) – 09/16/09 10:22 AM ET – referenced from  The Huffington Post and The Hill Blogs.   “On July 12, 1996, I cast the worst vote of my political career. Having served in public office since 1973, that says something. While I’ve made other mistakes, this was different: it was a deliberate vote that I knew to be poor public policy and was against my values. I’ve been a strong champion of civil rights and protections based on sexual orientation since I chaired the first legislative hearing on anti-discrimination legislation in 1973. Even worse, this vote was cast after careful consideration.” ( )

Last night President Bill Clinton, who horrified us all, by signing the Bill, has now fully retracted his penmanship to DOMA by saying that he fully supports the rights for gay people to marry.

I predict more will come forward and if one looks at the tally, and I can report more later, it is apparent that some who have already in this short spate of time signed on RMA were not signed on to Uniting American Families Act, the immigration legislation.  this is the uplift we need.   Imagine if our in fact marriages were in fact recognized by the law – hence our relationships – at this level.  DADT -ENDA-HATE CRIMES-UAFA-  all will be psychologically rolled into this one BIG ENDORSEMENT!    I believe mere introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act provides that respite, to some extent;  it also gives us a sturdy leg to stand on!  The irony of which we cannot but bemuse; in this vein we can say thank you to President Clinton, not for reversing his stand on DOMA but for signing it in the first place.  Crazy as this may seem, but without the overt ACT of denying our relationships, we could never have had the opportunity to have and ACT that (in effect) will serve to VALIDATE our relationships and hence our standing in Society.

I have a lot more to say on the subject so consider this Part one of an extensive series yet to come… please keep your eye open for PART TWO…. thanks for reading, mel.

Melanie Nathan  CONTACT:-
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