We as a community cannot reject the most vulnerable amongst us | Binational same-sex couples have already paid the heaviest price
By Melanie Nathan, May 28, 2013.
I started my advocacy work and writing the stories about the horrendous plight of same-sex binational couples back in 2009, when faced with the possible deportation of my own wife, at the time. Please read through to the end of this post, past the boring legal explanation, which sets the basis for why a Publisher of an LGBT news blog did such a harmful deed when responding in an e-mail to a member of the same-sex binational community.
Understanding the issue:
Same-sex Americans who have a partner from a foreign country are unable to sponsor their partner for a green card under current American law. This is because DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) asserts that the Federal law can only recognize marriages that are between one man and one woman. The Immigration law which is Federal law, is therefore compelled to only recognize different gender marriages, and it has no other provision for same-sex married couples to rely on to end this discrimination.
The only way this could change for same–sex couples is if there were to be special legislation to compensate for the prejudice. There are two pieces of legislation that could change this:
(1) Uniting American Families Act (UAFA ) special legislation– which has been introduced into congress several times and now specifically excluded from Comprehensive Immigration reform); and
(2) The repeal of DOMA, which has also been introduced into Congress under The Respect for Marriage Act.
Both pieces of legislation are very far from being enacted.
After years and years of exile, separation from partners, detentions, deportations or living undocumented, in fear of deportation, finally the same-sex binational couples may see their only immediate option for a reprieve from what has been sheer hell. And that is the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) upholding and ruling DOMA to be unconstitutional.
When that happens, and there is a strong likelihood that it will happen in 20 days time, with SCOTUS ruling on the Edie Windsor DOMA case, binational couples will be poised to change what has been their hellish nightmare.
They will be able to do one or more of the following:
- Apply for Fiancé Visas, in parity with different gender couples – which will allow for their Partners to come into the United States with the purpose of marriage; and/or
- Once in the U.S. or if already in U.S., get married, to their partners and that may well mean travelling to a different U.S. State from where one resides that legally recognizes same-sex marriages – which means one of 12 States or Washington D.C., in the U.S.A. And note: even if one does not live is such state, the marriage will be recognized for immigration purposes, regardless of where the couple ultimately lives; or
- Once married or if already married apply for a green card
The demise of DOMA, will then allow same-sex couples to be reunited with partners from whom they have been separated, in some cases for many years, allow Americans living in exile with their partners to return home to live as a couple, and hopefully provide remedies in some way or another for those caught in the quagmire of years of prejudice – with more work to be done by advocates and immigration lawyers to clean the slate toward full parity; the latter the subject of another article.
One point of this piece is to draw attention to our community about how much help our binational families are going to need. Not all of them have money and many who once may have had money have had their resources depleted with enormous financial strain to keep long distance relationships alive with travel, having to leave the USA at great cost, loss of income through accepting lesser careers to accommodate living elsewhere, travel etc., inordinate legal fees and much more. If I had been straight it would have cost me no more than $2500 all said and done to pay for my wife’s green card. Instead I estimate it cost us around $70,000 more to live together and function as a binational couple in this system.
I used to report these stories on a regular basis because of the grave injustice. No one single case was like another. Each fraught with its own exceptional hardship:
- In my own case, my now ex-wife came close to deportation – and I would have had to choose between staying in the USA with my then 12 year old because I shared custody from another relationship or leaving for Israel with my then wife and our 4 year old. Sisters would have been separated and I would have had to choose between my daughters. The Golden Gate Bridge felt like the only option to me at the time – rather than that awful Sophie’s choice – after some years and thankfully an R1 Visa employer was able to help us, with some added help from Senator Feinstein when needed;
- In the case of Ken, whose story I will be writing soon for OBLOGDEE – he has a heart problem that requires surgery and he has spent years apart from the man he wants to marry. His partner has been unable to get a VISA to the USA and Ken has had to keep working to fund travel to be with his love, despite his life threatening medical challenges;
- Then there is Rod and Manilou whose heart-wrenching story of love and untold hardship which is unique in its own right and will be published here too, in the next week; and
- My dear friends Madison and Gina who have stories told on other sites – not to mention the very many others.
And that brings me to one of those unique stories – the story of Johnny and Winton, which begins:-
“ A few years back I was laid off from work as so many others were during that time. After many months of searching, and not being able to find anything I became rather depressed. One day I was online looking for work and came across a website and began chatting with Johnny. Although we’re from very different backgrounds (he is from Romania, and me from the USA) We became fast friends. We would chat for hours, learning more and more about each other. As the time went on the friendship between Johnny, and I grew stronger everyday. He helped me through a very dark time in my life, always there for me, understanding me, accepting me, loving me. I realized then this is the man I was going to marry. I was fortunate enough last summer to be able to go and visit him in Romania. Although being out of work, I was able to sell some of my belongings to raise money and go, I thank God for this opportunity everyday! Taking this chance was the best thing I have ever done in my life…. Because this chance was the chance for love…” (more later..)
I have always believed, and call me biased, that the worst discrimination against our our community has been the one that robs us of the person we love, robs us of the families we leave behind or the country we are forced to exile. The numbers are incorrectly touted at 34,000 couples – that was census number from almost 2 decades ago, before we fell in love via social media. I would venture to estimate that there are probably 100,000 or more binational same-sex couples hurt by DOMA at this time.
And how dare we think that any two stories are alike; unique like your fingerprint, each has a nuance of hardship unlike the other – with a few glaring common denominators. I believe that all bloggers, LGBT news media, advocate sites have a duty to provide their popular pages to tell these stories and many have indeed heeded the call and done so and continue to do so.
Except for the recent Publisher refusal shocker:
Winton Arnold wrote this to a Publisher of an LGBT news/blog site, which I will not identify here:
My name is Winton Arnold. I am writing to you today, to ask for your help in sharing the story of my partner and I. About a month ago I created a page for Johnny (my partner) and myself. I would like to ask, if you would have a minute to please read our story at the link below. After if you feel it is important maybe it could be a segment or a small mention on your page…I realize Johnny and I are not the only Bi-national couple going through things like this. I am hoping though you’ll be able to find it in your heart to help us spread our story…..and show exactly what the LGBT community will go through to get their partner here with them. I really do hope our story touches you… .I would go to the ends of the earth to just be able to hug my Johnny once again….this man is my soulmate. Please help share our story. Thank you so much!
Winton Arnold -
Well Winton and Johnny are desperate to be in each others arms again and as June draws closer, they courageously reach out to members of the community to ask for help to make this dream come true.
Now my purpose is not to OUT this publisher for her insensitivity, callousness, lack of professionalism and sheer disdain, but rather to caste this in a light to bring awareness to how marginalized our binationals can be even at the hands of our own and also to note the dangers of writing in ignorance:-
This is the response Winton got from the publisher:
I have the deepest sympathy for your medical condition. I’m 100% disabled and have been running DEDACTED with heavy damage to my lower back due to the deterioration of my spine from a genetic predisposition. They tell me that I will eventually be in wheelchair but I refuse to be gloomy about the forecast. I was just offered a position as Associate Producer with DEDACTED Film Company (Names of Production company, producer and films DEDACTED).
I can’t really in good conscience run an article about your situation because it’s no different than any one of a thousand different people who write me looking for people to send them money to help them out. There has to be a radical twist to the story that would make it newsworthy.
The story of Kaitlynn Hunt, the high school student here in Florida that had a lover a few years younger than she was whose parents are trying to prosecute Kate for lewd and lascivious and sexual battery on a minor. That’s newsworthy and human interest.
I know you feel disappointed and while your back problems and trying to bring your boyfriend to you feel like they should be of extreme interest to everyone, I’m afraid they just aren’t.
Also, like most LGBT Americans, you seem to think that the minute DOMA is repealed (if in fact that happens) that everyone can instantly get married and that bi-national couples are protected.
You’re dead wrong.
If DOMA gets repealed then we revert to the same way things were in 1996 and we couldn’t get married back then either. There is no national marriage law waiting in the wings and Obama has promised no such law. He has said that he will leave it up to the individual states.
What’s more, the new immigration that just went through Congress and is presently in the Senate? They striped protections for the LGBT community out of the bill! So your partner would be deported after his visitation visa is up anyway. That story is all too common these days as well.
I wish you luck, Winton but I can’t do a story about you because there just wouldn’t be anyone who would want to read it.
Winton was devastated and wrote me asking what I thought- he asked if I though MS. Publisher was rude.
I responded by saying that not only did I think she was insensitive and rude, but she was misinformed and dangerous. I wondered about the competence of this person purporting to be an LGBT advocate in her BIO. Firstly to tout your own medical malady in the face of someone else’s painful plea is not only a slap across the face but also highly unprofessional. The letter was written to her in her capacity as an activist and blogger/reporter/ journalist, not a forum for her to unload her own story, the latter doing nothing more than invalidating the plight of Winton.
Secondly, She is DEAD WRONG on DOMA’s repeal and how it impacts same-sex binational couples. When SCOTUS rules DOMA unconstitutional of course ALL states will not have marriage, however I guarantee that every single binational couple who has yet to marry, and who can afford to travel interstate, will hotfoot the next flight to New York, Seattle, or anyone of the other 10 states to marry just so they can finally apply for a green card and those who are abroad and yet to marry will be sending out those Petitions, and some have already done so, for Fiance Visas, regardless of the fact that only 12 U.S. States allow same-sex marriage. And those who cannot afford any of this MUST be helped by people like you and me if we can afford to help.
Does MS. Publisher have any idea about the lengths we have already gone to, to try and be with our loved ones – and for Godsake what makes her think that we will not circumvent the bigot states to get our green cards? Once married the couple can choose to live anywhere in the US and it will not impact their immigration status.
Such ignorance… it gets worse…
Then thirdly, to say you are not going to write this story because there are so many others with similar stories fails to recognize the nuances and fingerprint so unique to each. And it is not newsworthy enough? Lacking the salacious twist attributable to a ‘Kaitlynn story’ – is not only unconscionably uncompassionate and ignorant, but plain ridiculous. Does that mean we should never write about poverty because there are so many poor people, or rape because so many get raped, or HIV/AIDS because so many have it? Are we only waiting for that one special story to avail ourselves of this imperative means to advocacy and assistance – our special LGBT BLOG pages?
And then finally this Publisher is telling a hopeful binational that his case is unworthy because of legislation that we do not need anyway once DOMA falls, showing she does not have a clue about the subject matter because she is and let me use her words again – DEAD WRONG.
To provide wrong information as an activist or to provide any as a publisher is unprofessional. She is not a lawyer and does not even suggest he seek legal advice before having the audacity to tell him that he has NO CHANCE of keeping his partner in the US. She is wrong on all respects here. He will have a remedy when DOMA dies and he does need money to bring his partner to the U.S.A.
And so her assertions could have a deadly impact.
Winton was devastated and I was shocked that someone who works as a publisher of an LGBT BLOG could have sent such a harmful and disturbing letter. Thank goodness Winton already knew she was wrong. But what if she gave that advice to someone who did not.
No I will not reveal who it is and yes I am writing this as a warning and a plea. Would people please stop giving advice and discouragement – to those who are vulnerable unless you are damn sure what it is you are saying. And why do I take this so seriously – and mention it is deadly advice - I do because of the story I wrote about the suicide of a young binational couples some months ago and because the Golden Gate Bridge seemed like MY only option when I was desperately contemplating my own Sophie’s choice- choosing between my two little girls.
AND I want to tell the LGBT community that we need to help all of our brothers and sisters seeking it, whether through financial, spiritual, counseling, writing, advocating, petitioning – whatever supportive means we can. We as a community owe this to each other.
If we have pens we should be writing, if we have mouths we should be talking, if we have a few extra dollars we should be giving.
And as for MS. Publisher – let me say this – you have some serious amends to do here via educating yourself as to the issue at hand and your purpose. And if you think your BLOG is all about being newsworthy – so be it – because with great thanks to you I have indeed found the twist you suggested would be needed to showcase Winton and Johnny.
Their story and plea for help can be found at http://gogetfunding.com/project/johnny-winton
I am asking anyone touched or impact by this outburst to donate $10.00 or more to Winston and Johnny and to consider visiting my BLOG again because I intend to publish many more stories where maybe we will be asking for more help. As a community it’s the least we can do.
By Melanie Nathan
Gay binational couple commit suicide within a week of each other
The suicide of this couple should be blamed squarely on the laws of the United States that specifically excludes gay spouses http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/03/12/gay-binational-couple-commit-suicide-within-a-week-of-each-other/
- Judge rules lesbian binational couple can challenge DOMA (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Immigration Equality begs on backs of binationals | Failed strategy has its remedy in death of DOMA (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Exploitation of binational same-sex couples continues as Immigration Equality continues to fund raise on the back of its failure (oblogdeeoblogda.me)