Published in the Advocate.com October 21, 2011 06:00:00 AM ET
Op-ed: Equal Sacrifice Demands Equal Rights –
While the Wilfahrt family shows us the right way to honor soldiers who died in combat, the Republican presidential candidates show us the wrong way.
By Melanie Nathan, op-ed contributor -http://www.advocate.com/politics/commentary/2011/10/21/op-ed-right-and-wrong-way-honor-fallen-gay-soldiers
We say the greatest sacrifice of all is to give one’s life for one’s country. It is those who are left behind
who ensure the legacy. Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt was willing to die for his country, and notwithstanding their insurmountable grief, his parents are charged with ensuring their son’s relevance in a country that has failed LGBT service members.
Until the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay and lesbian service members had to serve in silence unable to reveal their true selves. On September 20, the Draconian law died, but not before Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt’s death. He was never able to enjoy the openness he deserved.
And as a result, his parents are left in a fight that most others who have lost a son or daughter to war can skip. Most parents whose children’s lives ended in the service of our freedoms do not have to justify their family and their dead son’s life. Lori and Jeff Wilfahrt now boldly perceive that added burden as their obligation to their son, his military family and their country. The grieving and loving parents are reminding America that even though their son served in great honor, he served in exclusion. Even though others can now serve openly, the discrimination our service members carried through silent service persists until such time as full equality is attained for all LGBT people in the United States.
Andrew died “protecting rights that he himself could not enjoy, especially the right to marry the person he loved,” said Lori Wilfahrt this past weekend during the first OutServe Leadership Summit National Dinner. Her moving speech delivered to more than 200 post-DADT celebrants highlighted the ongoing discrimination: “The Constitution our son died for was intended to protect rights, not to deny them,” she said.
What many do not realize is that repeal of DADT serves only to legitimate open service but does not provide gays and lesbians in the military with equality. The right to marry and the benefits derived therefrom are still missing. What’s changed is that the iniquity can now be framed through the lenses of gays and lesbians who are open about their sexual orientation and who serve their country with equal valor, pride and patriotism as their heterosexual counterparts.
Like Lori and Jeff fighting for their son, all of us are charged with testifying for those who have fallen — on our behalf. Surely that includes our elected officials?
It is unimaginable to me that anyone vies for the highest position of commander-in-chief yet denigrates our service members and the freedoms for which they die. It seems too easy for these presidential candidates to spew unfettered bias from behind debate podiums. How can a potential leader of the most powerful nation on earth expect to command a military that he or she also encourages to disdain its own?
As we head into the primary to elect the Republican nominee for president, we are faced with a field of candidates who have shown their intention to roll back progress America has made toward equality. To add insult to injury, some candidates have signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage, to which they promise to one day legislate against equality. Such a binding pledge derogates from the role of a leader and the ability to remain open to facilitate and participate in negotiations on all issues. They have made their voices clear, and it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other on the issue of equality:
· Herman Cain says homosexuality is a sin and a choice.
· Rick Santorum believes being gay is a social experiment that should be kept out of the military.
· Michele Bachmann says, “If you are involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle it is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.” She also considers being gay and lesbian a sexual dysfunction.
· Rick Perry supports a federal amendment to ban gay marriage — as do most of them. They’re indistinguishable.
In short, these people are unfit to command an America of today!
This past week’s OutServe event was an historic moment of clarity. Gay and lesbian Americans can serve in the open, but they still need a commander-in-chief as qualified as President Obama to lead in truth. They need the voice of Republican candidates such as Fred Karger, who while excluded from the debates had the courage to lambast Santorum and the other candidates for not taking a stand on behalf of the soldier who was booed during a Republican debate.
When Santorum says “homosexuality undermines the family,” I am struck by the strength of family that I was privy to witness on Saturday night at the OutServe event. Gay or straight had no place in heartfelt mourning and pride of service. We were all one American family at that moment when in great tradition, with hundreds of glasses raised in the hands of gay service members in attendance, a toast was given to the commander-in-chief, to each and every branch of the military, and — in memory of Andrew — to the least undermined family of all, the Wilfahrt family.
MELANIE NATHAN is a lawyer and human rights activist who is author of GAY U.S.A. the Blog, which is run in conjunction with GAY U.S.A. the Movie. Video by KRISTINA LAPINSKI.
The following video is a tribute to Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt, a fallen gay soldier, whose parents, still deep in their grief, attended the first-ever Military Leadership Summit after repeal of DADT.
The Wilfahrt Story- A Gay American Soldier from www.gayusathemovie.com on Vimeo.
EXCLUSIVE: What GetEQUAL’s Robin McGehee Told the White House Today
Melanie Nathan;- 11-17-2010 – Today Robin McGehee did something most unusual for a school mom turned activist. A lesbian mom and executive Director of an LGBT organization GetEqual Robin took the words of LGBT grassroots into the White House.
From, yesterday chained to the fence of the White House, to being dragged off, feet scraping ground, by two burly arresting police officers , to a meeting inside the White House with Brian Bond and a Member of the President’s Domestic Policy Council and a White House legal Counsel on LGBT issues.
Robin called me moments after the meeting, her voice breaking with emotion as she walked down the Pennsylvania Blvd, cell phone in hand, another moment of true grass roots activism.
She told me, “when the White House found out that the bloggers had been informed and broken the news of our meeting they were angry. But I told them that I was not willing to do any back room deals – but that I wanted to be transparent. That I wanted my LGBT community to see and hear everything that happens. It is their equality at stake and they deserve that. She said she would rather leave than not be transparent.”
Mr. Bond told Robin McGehee, who points out that she was there as an activist, a mother, a lesbian and representing GetEQUAL, that he would then be unable to speak because he did not want what he said “used against them” but that he would listen. She told, he listened and he made notes.
McGehee told him that she would like to hear from the White House where LGBT equality legislation stood, specifically that she wanted to hear about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
She asked for an Executive Order by years end. She asked why the White House was not going ahead with an executive order to stop discharges; she said the LGBT community was insisting on it at the very least; Why is DADT different from any other legislation? Why is the President not pushing and persuading Senator Snowe and Collins, the fence sitters? Why is the President not spending some political capital here for DADT?
She told Bond that not one single member of the Military should be discharged and that the President ought to be reflecting that by his actions.
Mr. Bond told Robin that they are working as hard as they can; saying “ we want to see that happen” – Robin pushed further and said there is a difference between wanting to make it happen and making it happen. It must happen.
McGehee said although she was there about DADT- she could not allow the opportunity to be exclusive to that as the only LGBT issue; and so she pulled out a picture of her two children and introduced them to the group. She said that Although she realized DOMA may not be repealed at this time, she wanted the President to revert to his old pre- Presidential campaign position on marriage equality where he did support same sex marriage. “Everyday that our families live without dignity, the President should think of going back to his original stand and he must support marriage equality- as person of faith he should think of our dignity. Remember he came out and said that his religious beliefs precluded him from endorsing same-sex marriage for gays- well, as a person of faith the President ought to reflect on his denying our families and community the right to live with dignity.
Additionally she asked that the White House stop all future Federal Contracts that do not include protections for Transgender people; and she informed him it was her belief that if in fact this happened it would encourage more corporations who wanted to Contracts to do the same.
We also asked for the LGBT community to have a cabinet position.
Two weeks ago I had a meeting with Robin McGehee and Kathy Drasky from OUT4Immigration at a fabulous San Francisco Sushi Restaurant – thank you BLOWFISH.
It was there, while talking about the Uniting American Families Act and my hope it would be included with the DREAM Act in the lame duck session. I also showed Robin my Binational Visa and Pledge campaign. I spoke to Robin about the binational same sex community ‘s dissatisfaction and desperation. That we were fed up with being the unnoticed of all gay issues, yet our UAFA- having the highest amount of co-sponsorship of all LGBT equality bills, in Congress. We also discussed my views and writings about UAFA being stuck in Immigration reform.
SO Robin did not let us down and she spoke up “I told Mr. Bond that we wanted to see passage of the Uniting American families Act. That not one more person who has an American partner should be deported, separated or living in exile. I told him, Mel about your binational Visa as a stop gap measure, and asked the President to get it done – and he wrote it down. I stressed he must stop the deportations of gay and lesbian spouses and partners. If we do not get UAFA this lame duck session then the President must ensure no more deportations and getting our permanent partners Visas to come into the Country.
Robin McGehee did the Lgbt movement a great deed today. The White House may well have heard the voices of everyday gays and lesbians. I believe we will see action and if we do not there will be more fences, more chains, and more noise. Robin is inviting transparency as we move towards our basic civil rights, in the form of a real movement that is birthing as we speak. The movement that demands full equality.
In the meantime – call your Senators and ask what they are doing to broker the REPEAL of DADT in this Session and while you are at it, mention UAFA being included with DREAM ACT in this lame duck session.
Robin McGeHee Invited by White House to Attend Signing of Repeal of DADT
Melanie Nathan, Dec 20-2010 – Brian Bond, LGBT Affairs, White House Senior Staffer, invited GetEQUAL’s Robin McGeHee to the White House after her release from arrest when she chained herself together with other activists to the White House Fence, under a call to action by the group which she directs, GetEQUAL.
McGehee made the bold deal that she would only talk on the record, no back room deals and full transparency. Realizing that this would limit what Bond could say as well as the Counsel in attendance, Robin made sure that she was heard and ,ade some imperative demands on the part of the LGBT community, including going beyond the reach of the repeal of DADT.
Now, the highly controversial activist has been invited to the signing of the repeal indicating the effectiveness and importance of her role and that of her organization, GetEQUAL.
Robin has stated that she plans to attend:
“I am ONLY going to the DADT repeal signing to show Sebastian that standing up for what you believe in MATTERS. The time I was away from him and his sister will hopefully lead to a more EQUAL world.”
Robin, when at the White House meeting, pulled out a picture of her children and informed the meeting she was there for them.
Those who know Robin – can attest to her modesty and humbleness and the fact that she is not impressed by fanfare and flare. So when she says ONLY – she is clear that her attendance is to see the work of GetEQUAL through to completion.
We are sure other activists have been invited as well.
Those who know the small Get EQUAL team can also attest to the fact that this recognition of their part flies well in the face of critics who are still doubtful of the importance of grass root action and civil disobedience in the American process. Remember it was the President himself who urged Americans to get active and some answered the call.
Robin I have no doubt will attend this signing still in solidarity for all those who continue to be impacted by the lack of full equality.
To my binational readers – those who seek same sex green cards – Robin and GetEQUAL has her eye on your stories too and has been keen to mention UAFA and the idea of a Binational Visa at any give opportunity.
Organizations from Gay Inc. have been invited to attend including over 30 staff from HRC –
Also invited officially is Heather Cronk, A Director the Managing Director of GetEQUAL. Heather told LezGetReal:
“I’m honored to have been invited to the bill signing, but I know that the invitation wasn’t to me individually. I’ll be attending the bill signing on behalf of all those who have taken action throughout the past year — and throughout decades before this year — to relentlessly fight for their own equality. This invitation is in honor, and in memory, of all those who have been part of the fight against military discrimination, and I’m happy to be able to represent those who don’t take no for an answer. I’ll take all of those rabble-rousers into the room with me on Wednesday.”
By Melanie Nathan
Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL Speaks up for Equality and Binational Same-Sex Couples – at White House Meeting
Melanie Nathan – Nov 18-2010:– A few weeks ago Kathy Drasky from OUT4Immigration and I met with Robin McGehee and her partner in San Francisco where we spoke bout the suffering of binational same sex couples, who are unable to enjoy the benefit of the same green card sponsorship laws that apply to straight couples.
It was there, while talking about the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA,) which seeks to include gay and lesbian permanent partners in the current Immigration law (whether immigration reform and amnesty for undocumented foreigners happens or not) that I expressed my hope that UAFA would be stand alone or at the very least included with the DREAM Act to be brought to passage in the lame duck session. We discussed the changed political climate and our hopes for the future.
I was able to impart to Robin the desperation of same-sex couples- that partners needed urgent and immediate relief; and that business as usual, where binational couples are the least heard in the equality movement, yet suffer the most hardship, is simply no longer acceptable.
Some Americans are living in exile- a little known fact by many in the greater populace, unable to live at home, having to leave careers, mortgages and pensions behind. Others have partners or spouses who are hiding in fear of deportation or about to be deported; and some cannot be with their partners – whom they have not seen in some cases for years. This is a human rights travesty of the worst kind.
Meeting Robin McGeehee of GetEQUAL for the first time in person, over dinner, allowed me the opportunity to note that she is a people person, a grass root thinker, with warmth and genuine pure purpose. Her journey yielded no ulterior motive and believe me working at the pace she does, is beyond the call of a mere job.
At our meeting Robin gave our binational discussion center stage and I took the opportunity to inform her and Kathy about the Binational VISA that I have been working on for a year. I showed her my Petition and explained where I thought it was going. Robin listened intently.
Unbeknown to me and Kathy at the time of our meeting, Robin would a few weeks later attach herself to the White House fence, demanding the Repeal of DADT – and as expected the result would be her civil disobedience arrest; yet least expected was that one day later, she would be invited to the White House, and then talking to a high ranking official in the Obama administration.
When I interviewed Robin after her meeting, for the exclusive article which I wrote on the 17th, I had no expectation that she would even begin to mention UAFA and the bi-national plight. So when in the interview, on the phone, held while she was leaving the White House, you can imagine my delight when she told me that she had brought up UAFA and same-sex right to immigration equality.
She said: “I told Brian Bond that we wanted to see passage of the Uniting American families Act. That not one more person who has an American partner should be deported, separated or living in exile. I told him, Mel, about your binational Visa as a stop gap interim measure, and asked him to ask the President to get it done soon – and he wrote it down. I stressed he must stop the deportations of gay and lesbian spouses and partners. If we do not get UAFA this lame duck session then the President must ensure no more deportations and getting our permanent partners Visas to come into the Country.”
Today these words were heard by many as the article I originally posted went viral – including reports and references back to my Article from The Advocate, She Wired and Pams Blend – where Autumn Sandeen, one of the White House Protesters, expands on Transgender issues raised by McGehee at the meeting.
Robin McGehee did the LGBT movement a great deed that moment. Because although she was there specifically advocating for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, there was not a single aspect of LGBT equality that she did not specifically mention and unlike many who have had such opportunity she mentioned UAFA as an integral and urgent requirement of our movement.
The Shame: Tomorrow A DREAM but no UAFA!
The Day of – CALIFORNIA State Resolution in Favor of Passage of UAFA
Melanie Nathan – Dec 17-2010… In forty nine years from now, I will look back and ask: ‘did they really do that in America in 2010? ‘ I will be perplexed- confused – “did they really exile Americans, in 2010 – send American citizens packing – “Go, leave America – choose between love and country! And so what about love for country?”
“How could they? How could they have stopped lovers from loving? From beloved being betrothed- betrothed to breathe sweet American Pie- at home in the ‘land of the free.’ How could they separate soul mates simply because they present sameness of gender?”
It made no sense – but they did? They sure did and they did it in the name of justifying oppression, a mantra – signed into law by a Democratic President, one who stood for social Justice.
Who was he pleasing who?
Did they continue to please and I still scream DOMA, DOMA, DOMA!
On Saturday Dec 18-2010- Looking back 49 years there was a vote in the US Senate ,a vote for a DREAM – for the children of undocumented immigrants- the innocent children who have lost their liberty to their parent’s desperation.
The DREAM Act passed and the DREAM of immigration and education realized; then they were free and happy.
AND looking back I try to understand why at a time when hardship was being recognized and injustice appropriately dealt with, why were you Madison, Ken, Gina, Inger, Carla, Lori, Jen, Tim, Michael, Jon, Di, and all the 100,000 others-
so left out of the DREAM –
with your SCREAM UAFA UAFA UAFA.
.. when already American citizens you could do nothing, nothing to be with who you love, care for or be cared for by your love, at home in the land of the free !
And worse yet the Senate , the US Congress and themost powerful person in the world, the US President – of the United States of America, seemed not to care less…..
That was then – this is now 49 years later and we are almost 100!
When can we be together with our true love in our true home in the Land of the Free?
Note: Tomorrow The Dream Act comes to the Senate floor for a vote but UAFA does not. UAFA would provide immigration equality to American citizens and residents who are unable to sponsor their same-sex spouses and permanent partners for green cards.
The US has yet to enact laws that will prevent gay and lesbian couples from having to exile to stay with foreign partners or from partners facing deportation. The discrimination in the USA is based on the fact that same-sex partners are specifically excluded from Federal rights – such as the right to sponsor a spouse for a green card, because of the Defense of Marriage Act. (DOMA)
in sadness & solidarity; yet another holiday season
watching friends separated… again… again…
This Video depicts failed leadership. LGBT Organizations have failed to fight for UAFA – thinking that Immigration Equality will get the Job done!! Well where are you and where were you? If you had we would be sitting with DREAM ACT tomorrow, Saturday Dec 18, 2010.
Yes we should tell our stories; but some of us did and we had a Senate Hearing and we had Julian Bond and Shirley Tan – but we were thrown away – the distraction – If UAFA would have been pursued as vigorously as DREAM ACT as a stand alone instead of as only worthy of inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform – we would have had our million dollar advocacy and lobby groups mobilizing stories to be told to Democrats and Republicans alike.
On June 3rd, 2010 – A member of the staff of Immigration Equality told me and the TAN family – “Don’t waste your time talking to Republicans. “ Joe of PFLAG – what do you think about that? That was the week Steve Ralls left PFLAG to join Immigration Equality – it was not Steve who made that suggestion it was someone else.
- Senator Arlen Specter Remembered by Lesbian Activist at hearings on UAFA (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
Churches Cry Foul in Wake of Same-Sex Partner Inclusion in Immigration Reform
Melanie Nathan; Oct 18-2012
Will the push for same-sex couples in federal immigration legislation strain an ostensibly wide coalition for comprehensive reform? My contention is- government ought not be influenced by religious perspectives at all – hence there should be no religious coalition of support. It should simply be out of the ambit of religious influence. This may seem like Church vs. State 101 – yet it is so far from what is really happening. What is really happening is that our LGBTQ rights are being dictated by the Church and its simply reprehensible!
Mark Tooley writing at The American Spectator , in his piece, Amnesty for Same-Sex Couples, where sets out an analysis of church views, delineating the religious right’s objection to same-sex partners having the basic human right to share their life with a partner of their choice, and the basic constitutional right to pursue happiness with parity under the law. The general excuse for the discrimination is same-sex immigration rights leads to same sex marriage!
The Article starts “Liberal Democratic Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced their ‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act’ on September 29 . . . It also includes a ‘Uniting American Families Act’ (UAFA) allowing ‘permanent partners’ of U.S. citizens, which seems to mean same-sex couples, to obtain U.S. residency . . . Speaking for the Catholic bishops, who typically support liberalized immigration, Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City reportedly wrote Senator Menendez explaining ‘that a controversial provision, which would confer marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex couples,’ would ‘preclude the U.S. bishops from supporting’ it as introduced.”
The religious Right, the Evangelicals, The Catholic Church, the Baptists – the ‘interferors’ in matters of civil rights – take your tax free status – AND lay off our rights. But no that is not happening…. a failure of unbelievable proportion in a system that purports to protect all, in essence has set the religious right loose to impinge on civil rights.
The Catholic bishops, who typically support immigration, have again spoken out against same sex binational couple’s rights to parity under the immigration law, having testified previously in Senate Committee hearing against the Uniting American Families Act being included in immigration reform, with a threat that they would not support immigration reform containing lesbian and gay, same-sex rights.
At present gay and lesbian couples cannot sponsor foreign born partners and spouses for immigration to the USA. While I believe this is an equality issue and not an immigration issue, per se, its inclusion in Immigration reform is a matter of organic necessity at this point, because the immigration equality activists have steered the equality issue into the realm of immigration reform, (CIR.)
Now UAFA has no home except in CIR – so my fear in characterizing it as an immigration issue is elucidated by the likes of Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City reportedly wrote Senator Menendez explaining “that a controversial provision, which would confer marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex couples,” would “preclude the U.S. bishops from supporting” it as introduced. Interestingly these Bishops are willing to sacrifice the flock for fear of gay and lesbians attaining this basic civil right. However will same sex couples end up being the sacrificial lamb- the “public option” of comprehensive immigration reform?
So while we think this through, do the Church groups have any right to comment at all? I say not – basic Church versus State 101- yet America it is happening under your nose- as we speak. This Article proves it!
According to Tooley’s report Bishop Wester noted that the same-sex provision “in a comprehensive immigration reform bill will make it far more difficult to achieve the compromise that will be needed in order to enact a fair and balanced comprehensive immigration reform bill.” Last year, Wester warned against similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would “erode the institution of marriage and family by according marriage-like immigration benefits to same sex relationships, a position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage which pre-dates the Church and the state.”
The article goes on to discuss other liberalized immigration proponents, such as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also warned against the same-sex provision. “That’s the sad political reality,” he lamented to Episcopal News Service. “Politically in Washington it has been very difficult to engage Republicans and conservative Democrats on the issue of immigration reform.” Rodriguez and his group for Hispanic evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage. “Finally we were able to acquire support and galvanize the white evangelical community in support of immigration reform and that coalition stands to be jeopardized if those agenda items are morphed together.”
Again illustrating that LGBT -and same-sex rights are being used to wedge a coalition that seemed strong.
While one website lists Church World Service as a specific supporter of the same-sex partner provision. ” We applaud the leadership exhibited by Senators Menendez and Leahy in introducing this bill.” Although all but a few of the National Council of Churches over 30 member denominations oppose same-sex marriage, its relief agency recognized no concerns about UAFA.
One of the few denominations supporting UAFA is the Episcopal Church, whose news service offered a full virtual editorial for the Leahy/Menendez initiative for same sex couples. Episcopal News Service specifically spotlighted a Washington, D.C. Episcopal priest who is married, under D.C. law, to a same-sex Filipino doctoral student struggling with his visa status. “If same-sex marriages were recognized federally this would be a non-issue,” the Filipino student opined. “Just like anybody else, [my partner] would be able to sponsor me.”
Episcopal Church has an official policy statement demanding “immigration equality” for same-sex partners, ratified at the denomination’s General Convention last year. That resolution denounced as an “outrageous injustice” the lack of recognition by federal immigration law for same-sex couples, when “similarly situated heterosexual immigrants are free to marry at any time.” Jewish Reform , Conservative and Orthodox tend toward support of immigration reform including UAFA. United Methodist lobbyist spoke at a press conference for the same-sex partners immigration initiative.
According to the piece also, the Quakers and Unitarian Universalists have also joined with the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist lobby, along with the United Church of Christ, for federal recognition of same-sex partners in immigration law.
So while we look at the support and those who do not support UAFA and immigration equality, my assertion is it is none of any religious organizations business to attempt in any way to influence the legislation on this critical matter. The Church’s views must be ignored by all political representatives as having no relevance whatsoever to the issue at hand. Yet the article gives credence to the validity of the Church having a view at all. That is simply unacceptable. Same-Sex partners and Amnesty? I am abhorred by the audacity terming Equality as an Amnesty. If the Church was out the picture – the coalition would not be and the Politicians would have a shot at viewing this legislation for what it is. But of course we do not have the separation of Church and State that we are led to believe we do. The Gay and lesbian (LGBTQ community is constantly bombarded and impacted by this failure in America – to truly honor the Constitution and the freedom that was intended by the Founding Fathers, supported by the Mothers!
This UAFA as included in CIR is righting the horrendous wrong of separating couples in love, the immorality of exiling Americans who want to be with life partners to foreign countries, the abuse of forcing lovers to hide in fear of detention and the discrimination of deporting those who, but for parity in the law, would not be subject to deportation.
Explosive: Does Immigration Equality Hold Future of UAFA as Bi-Nationals Beg for Immediate Relief
Melanie Nathan; 09-13-2010
If This does not wake Immigration Equality up what will?
Today a powerful article appeared in the Washington Post. It speaks to the hardship caused by the Defense of Marriage Act; that even if gay and lesbian same-sex couples can marry in a given State, the Federal Immigration Laws still exclude the couples from the benefits of the Immigration & Naturalization Act as conferred on different gender couples. Gay and Lesbian Americans and Residents cannot sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the USA.
Immigration Equality took UAFA down the path of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, knowing full well that it was a rough shot. Had there been no alternative or opportunities along the way to take stock of the strategy that would be a great excuse, but that is not the case. I believe they will have destroyed the future of UAFA unless they change strategy NOW! Unfortunately it is IE which has taken the self-described role as the preiminent organization on the topic; and other LGBT groups have bowed to this position. They have steered the strategy and advocacy -Hence the responsibility is squarely theirs!
The Washington Post: “The demand by these couples to gain the same immigration rights as heterosexuals is supported by key members of Congress, but is undermining the fractious coalition of groups needed to push through an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Including equal treatment for gay partners of U.S. citizens, key advocates say, threatens to doom the already fragile hopes for change.
“It introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise,” said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House bill aimed at reuniting families made it “impossible” for the group to support the measure. “Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.””
The full Article is a must read for all LGBT Advocates and Allies. It tells the present reality and truth of what was in my estimation easy to foresee. I saw this outcome on June 4th 2010, when Immigration Equality made a unilateral decision to do with our rights and dollars – advocacy of its own will!
For over a year I have been imploring Immigration Equality and other advocacy groups, not to take the Uniting American Families Act down the path of Comprehensive Immigration reform. The only response I ever received from the Group, was for one of its employees to call Lezgetreal to ask Dr. Paula Brooks, our editor-in-chief to fire me because “Melanie Nathan is a time bomb waiting to explode.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/12/AR2010091204157_2.html?sid=ST2010091204182
This is what I wrote back on July 18th, 2009:
As my readers know I have expressed a great deal of concern with how the Uniting American Families Act has been handled by our self-appointed-by-ommission-leadership. It is sad, yet validating to note the comments of Congresswoman Speier on UAFA’s unlikely passage. Albeit it disturbing news, I believe it can and ought to serve as a titanic wake up call to bi-nationals, supporters and the LGBT community as a whole. It is time to fight for UAFA and it must be NOW. The Article can be read in full at…. http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=4072
Congresswoman Speier mentions that UAFA is low on the list of important and hence unlikely to see passage. I too have heard that many members of Congress have not even heard about UAFA, the bill that will allow American Partners in same-sex relationships to Petition under the immigration law for their Permanent Partners to remain in our Country. While Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado’s case created astonishing awareness, I agree with Representative Speier’s comment – “ In regard to a bill that would allow LGBT Americans to remain in the country with their foreign-born partners, Speier said the issue had not gained enough traction in Congress to become a priority.”
To me this is indicative of the very problem that I and many others have been concerned about and I am willing to go out on a limb to assert UAFA has not gained traction for, inter alia, the following reasons, and some points are cryptic:
1. Lack of involvement and utilization of grassroots groups;
2. Failure to use the stories of bi-nationals as a poignant tool, beyond mere display on websites;
3. Lack of effective leadership by Immigration Equality organizations– good leaders gather the best brains in the Country and do not make decisions without consultation, alliances, strategies and delegation. When alliances are made, we should never lose sight of the prize by being swayed into battles that deplete our minimal resources. Losing sight of the prize is when we minimize the fight for equality by shifting to a fight for immigration reform for those who already have the right to petition for spouses. UAFA is an issue of Equality and not an immigration issue. We have been manipulated to look at the issue from the perspective of the immigrant. UAFA should be seen and advocated through the eyes of the suffering of the American partner citizen who has been denied the same rights as other Americans in permanent committed relationships having the option to marry. Immigration is a privilege for the immigrant and inherent in the Immigration & Naturalization Act is a right for an American citizen spouse/ fiancé. Lesbian and Gay Americans are denied these rights. That is the fight and we should not be led down other paths.
I believe as do many that the Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado story hit the mark. Their Story provided a mix of every element critical to immigration awareness and especially the LGBT and bi-national plight. The fact that had there been equality of process by recognition by US law of same-sex permanent partnership, the family would never have gone through the hell they did. This exacerbation of hardship is clearly evident from Shirley’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3rd this year. I urge every reader who has yet to see the testimony to do so on you tube and to add to the already 29,000 plus who have viewed it.
The very day after their testimony, Immigration Equality in D.C. effectively shifted the focus to RFA, the new legislation being introduced by Rep. Mike Honda. Although this Bill was momentous and Shirley spoke at the initiating press-conference, I had not been fully apprised of the nature of the conference. Regardless, as Shirley’s personal advocate I did believe her appearance was important, but I would not have agreed to it had I known what I now know and that is that the focus would shift from UAFA as an absolute, and that Immigration Equality would re-assign its resources, contrary to the expectation and consultation with a fully respresented bi-national community itself.
This was a big mistake in my opinion. Of course LGBT language should be included in immigration reform as a matter of course as it is the right thing to do. However, our fight is still the equality fight and we are selling our community and those who have funded and advocated the work, short if we fail to focus on UAFA.
Shirley and Jay agreed to represent the issue of UAFA and that is why we went to testify; and they remain committed and focused to continue to do so. They know and understand the value of comprehensive immigration reform and the inclusion of LGBT language therein, but will not take their eye off the ball when it comes to the inequity of immigration laws against same-sex couples. I believe a great opportunity and momentum may be lost if we do not take Shirley and Jay’s advocacy to the next level in relation to UAFA – and that should be to speak to and motivate other couples to deliver and share their stories with their own congressional representatives. I am convinced this type of direct advocacy would impact Congress to move quickly. They have no idea about the extent of the suffering – someone has to deliver the message.
I had a great conversation this week with a prominent D.C. insider who has much more experience in D.C. than me. He explained his view and the reigning sentiment amongst LGBT organizations such as Immigration Equality, on the importance of the LGBT alliance with the larger immigration community via the Mike Honda Bill, Reuniting Families Act, (HR 2709) that seeks to incorporate UAFA. He also conveyed, similar to Rep. Speier, that D.C. intelligence is clear that UAFA stands less chance than Comprehensive Immigration reform of passage; and that for this reason some organizations may be seen taking a new path which clearly veers from the absolute focus on UAFA. I was really appreciative of our discourse yet remain unconvinced, especially when my source admitted that we could land up being dumped, the sacrificial lamb at the end of the road.
However at no time to date has the beast been unleashed, truly unleashed; and believe me there is one waiting…. If all the bi-nationals band together on a grassroots level and strategize and if more Shirley and Jays and Carla and Britta’s have the courage to show up on doorstep of congress with their reporters, cameras and bloggers in tow, and if people like me are willing to advocate for Private Bills and in arenas that most say are impenetrable, I really believe that UAFA can move in a direction that would provide a format of a Bill that will pass.
Congress can and will have a new attitude toward UAFA – but it is not going to happen until we empower our community to make appointments with their representatives in every district, to show up with their own stories asking for help and if they do not need help, then to show up with the stories of other constituents. Congress will buzz if the dialogue between Rep and Constituent is prevalent and persistent. Until this constituent push happens the D.C. insider intelligence is meaningless. If congress has not taken the issue on after we do this, then I will succumb to the current D.C. Intelligence.
Shirley Tan’s testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee has had almost 30,000 hits on YouTube – compared to about a couple hundred by Session’s witnesses. I believe that speaks volumes for the clout of empowerment.
Thanks to OUT4Immigration for mobilizing the grassroots in a big way since back in 2009. They have done an extraordinary job; but the ego-based IE has failed to embrace this unfinded group of volunteers in an effective way.
Also OUT4IMMIGRATION- please use your grassroots clout to reconsider CIR and perhaps Immigration Equality with your impetus could get us back on track for UAFA as a stand-alone-bill.
I think I can safely say that no one has reported as vehemently as I have done or as much on this subject and I feel qualified to BEG yet again : ‘Now Immigration Equality and other Organizations will you please wake up and GET UAFA passed as a stand alone during the lame duck!!!‘
The Carrot Dangles as Political Expediency Controls Immigration Reform at Expense of UAFA Equality
ALL Alone and Now Stand-alone!
By Melanie Nathan, June 17, 2010
Here’s how the Senators meeting today measure up in terms of their willingness to move forward on reform according to Prerna Lal , co-founder of DreamActivist.org and Managing Editor at The Sanctuary.
Senator Harry Reid: Senate Majority Leader Reid has been adamantly against pursuing the DREAM Act as an independent bill, telling Latina Lista that “We can’t just do the DREAM Act” even though he is a co-sponsor. But the midterm elections might be a game changing “angele” for Reid. Given that Sen. Reid is miraculously trailing extreme right-winger Sharron Angle in his re-election bid, he might be open to making compromises if he wants Latino voters to come out to the polls for him in November.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: Despite numerous protests, mock graduations, and even a sit-down at her office by students, has pursed her lips on the DREAM Act. In 2003, she contributed heavily to stripping the bill of a provision providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth doing community service. Her main immigration priority is the AgJOBs legislation to allow undocumented farm workers and guest workers to gain temporary legal residency, which would undoubtedly benefit the state of California. But if she decides to give AgJOBs a push in this legislative session, it may create an opening for other legislative pieces, such as the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is also critical for California since 40% of undocumented students reside in the state and also UAFA, where the Senator has held out from sponsorship, based on her assertion, not of fraud, as Immigration groups would have you believe, but more because of the lack of a contractual nexus (creation of legal rights and obligations ) between loosely defined “permanent partner” in the Uniting American Families Bill. The latter could be easily remedied if some organization such as Immigration took heed when advised to deal with this aspect over a year ago.
Senator Robert Menendez: The only Latino Senator in Congress, Roberto Menendez is a wildcard. He recently chided President Obama for sending 1300 troops to the border and accused him of political grandstanding, asking the White House and Congress to champion comprehensive immigration reform instead of using border security to hide behind the issue. According to Sen. Schumer, Menendez has been holding the DREAM Act hostage in the Senate because he wants a comprehensive solution and believes in moving forward with reforms in the lame duck session after November. Refuting Schumer’s claims, several inside sources say that Menendez is willing to move forward with just the DREAM Act this year.
Senator Chuck Schumer: The target of a 10-day hunger strike by DREAM-eligible students, Schumer was supposed to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Labor Day last year, but now is giving a timeline of next March. Sen. Schumer has little incentive to give any political victories to Sen. Reid, since Schumer would more than likely become the new Majority Leader if Reid loses his re-election bid. Schumer insists that he needs five more cosponsors for the DREAM Act to move forward, but he must also the bill’s success would give a victory to the DREAM Act’s main co-sponsor, Sen. Dick Durbin, who is the Assistant Majority Leader and also vying for the Majority Leader position. Schumer may be the biggest roadblock to any immigration reform legislation moving forward due to his own political ambitions.
So proponents of UAFA who said we would only ever succeed in getting UAFA if included in Comprehensive Immigration Reform and all you suckers who fell for the fallacious leadership, look at the mess predicted here at my BLOG on June 4th and in 30 some articles thereafter! Why the #$%^ should our lives be at the mercy of political expediency. Why should a Senator keep his job when you cannot keep your spouse or stay in your country?
I HAVE HAD ENOUGH – I am sad, disappointed, angry and ready to rock SHIPS ….. Please join me …
Jerold Nadler’s stand alone Bill,The Uniting American Families Act remains the only plausible solution for equality in existing immigration law; regardless of later reform. In my opinion it can only survive as as a stand-alone bill or coupled with two other Immigration Bills also remedial in nature. Now UAFA has become the predictable center of controversy for many reasons, including the fact that immigration reform is even more controversial than immigration equality. I have said for a year, these are separate issues.
Politicians have been reluctant to include UAFA in the immigration reform Bills, causing delays that have done nothing more than to hurt and exacerbate the pain of those directly impacted by the fact that same-sex partners or spouses have no mechanism to sponsor their foreign partners. (See my earlier articles.)
Now the debacle of tagging UAFA on to Immigration reform is more apparent than ever and suddenly other activists are finally seeing that what we predicted here at LGR, one year ago, has in fact played out just as we said it would. Now is the perfect time to take UAFA out of the immigration reform equation, and to pursue the Bill as a Stand-alone. If adding Dream Act and/ or AGj obs will add to the votes, then add those too to a larger piece of legislation that is imperative to all across the aisle.
In truth – it is and has been irresponsible to expect bi-national same-sex spouses seeking parity with different gender spouses to be attached to a bill that is pure controversy in its offering of legality to undocumented citizens, that it will render the health care reform clash trivial by comparison.
Fools all of you who were willing to take this ridiculous ride imposed by Immigration Equality. It did nothing more than derogate from the momentum for UAFA, poised by the Senate Judiciary committee hearing for UAFA supported by the impetus of the moving advocacy of Shirley Tan. We wanted our EQUALITY BILL – a remedial Bill, one that righted a wrong, not one that asked for something new.The DREAMACT and AGjobs right critical wrongs too.
What damn idiot thought it a plan to attach UAFA to amnesty and Biometrics? The lobby of Schumer by Immigration Equality and all the rest of us idiots puppets to the lockstep delusions of three incompetent decision makers puporting to represent an entire community in its decision making without so much ads a vote.
UAFA deserves to be the equality legislation it is and it does not deserve the run around and hand holding with biometric, amnesty, fines and all the controversy surrounding immigration reform per se.
UAFA is not reform legislation and we have been taken on a one year round about of broken promises and unevaluated strategy.
For the LGBT community and especially Americans exiled, bi-national partners in hiding or those separated by borders from their spouses and partners, there could be no piece of legislation more important than the remedial equality legislation UAFA. Imagine straight spouses or fiance’s waiting to reunite through a controversial immigration reform Bill that provides amnesty to undocumented immigrants?
GAY couples in love are NOT undocumented immigrants – they are American citizens and residents who have had their right to sponsor their partners taken away from them! An existing right – until the unconstitutional DOMA (Defense of marriage Act) deprived same-sex couples of their basic right to parity under the law of the United States.
The marriage of the three imperative Bills is a must and URGENT – it cannot wait for a change in Congress. Let me add honorable members of congress, Representatives and Senators, even those of you who support this legislation, where is your courage? Where is your true leadership? You cower behind the next election and hope this issue will take a life of its own. It is your courage and conviction we voted for. I am disappointed in the Senators who should have been at the helm.
Congressman Nadler take back UAFA to the position it so rightfully deserves.
Forget tagging on to the risky and ever elusive Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR.) Forget Schumer and his biweekly promise of CIR – next week, next month, next year? This run around sponsored by the one Gay organization that purports immigration equality as its exclusive domain – an ownership of our rights – has lost ground, relevance and legitimacy demanding your funding – and the con, bought into by the rest of the LGBT non-profits and activists – save for IE’s ability to make referrals of the chosen winning asylum cases to outside pro bono attorneys, all mere servants to Immigration Equality’s next proclaimed success. Remember they do refuse losing cases – or at least those they judge as losing.
Senators we do not all agree with the Immigration Equality Lobby – THEY DO NOT represent us or what many of us want.
They are a renegade group of self appointed leadership that uses the brain of three paid staffers and a sleepy Board, who decided to let go of UAFA with the lie of a dual strategy and now suddenly from their lost lobby are contemplating what they term as a dual strategy, by riding the coat tails of others who refused to follow their misguided plan.
But it is too late to recapture the lost time, when we could have remedied the problems with UAFA and provided what Senator Feinstein needed to co-sponsor. When we could have lobbied other members of the House and Senate touting the difference between remedial legislation instead of immigration reform.
Foolish community relying on the three brains – when there are thousands with different and more compelling ideas. Why have we, under the so called dual strategy of immigration equality only attained 11 new supporters in the House and 3 new Supporters in the Senate for UAFA ? – In truth these were attained without any funding through the letter campaign of Out4Immigration grassroots.
Through IE’s sale of CIR, as the only option, they excluded the other non profits who relied on their purported preeminence. Our grass root lobby was also painted into the IE’s CIR corner, as why would any member of Congress sign up for UAFA as a stand alone when IE was lobbying CIR. The two were in essence mutually exclusive. Yet they had you believe otherwise.
The bi-national community is begging for members of the House and Senate to do something immediately to change this reprehensible inequity. Please if you are reading this and want to help – Contact your representative and ask what they are specifically doing to forward passage of UAFA.
I do not purport to understand the structure, the power, the seniority, the inner working of DC and the HILL – so forgive my nativity in all this – all I can see are those who I still trust and believe in and hope can band together (yet again) and for some kind of coalition to express solidarity and imperative urgent results for separated and discriminated against LGBT partners before the DC tide changes for the worse:
MY TRUST GOES TO:- And Leadership MUST exert from –
1. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton – because we look bad abroad and have no right to express human rights concerns when our own house is not in order;
2. The President – moratoriums and executive orders such as that granted to the Haitians and widows of deceased soldiers- shows me its possible to do something extraordinary for Americans in exile et al.
3. Reps. Jerold Nadler, Lynn Woolsey, Jackie Speier, Joe Sestak; Senators John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Tammy Baldwin, Senator Gilibrand;- all of who have constituents in dire straights, co sponsored, spoken out and in the press as a result.
4. Senator Feinstein – Helped me personally, helped Shirley Tan and introduced PB #867. Need the Senator to to lead in the requisite amendment that could provide for a description of what would be acceptable to discern contractual nexus such as written contracts, Domestic Partnership registration, Marriage- certificates – not for the sake of same-sex marriage recognition but purely as evidence of the critical contractual nexus that seems to be holding up the Senators support of UAFA.
5. Congressional LGBT Caucus – Have spoken out before and please continue to speak for a stand-alone/moratoriums/executive orders. PLEASE!
6. Trust you all in the refusal to succumb to religious arguments – under first amendment – not permitting the establishment of a religion for USA.
7. Immigration Equality LOBBY NOW for UAFA as a stand alone – or BUTT OUT! Stick to you asylum referral work but leave UAFA alone… You do not ACT for me and any lobbying should proceed with a caveat that you do not represent the bi-national community – you represent your own point of view. What ever gave you the right to think you represented me?
CALL of the Senators above and push for UAFA and DREAM ACT NOW!
Conspicuous off my list of trustworthy at Senator Chuck Schumer, and Luis Gutierrez – who have already let us down!!!
UAFA Revisited by Activists – Failure to Engage Opposition
Calling for a New Direction: Marrying DREAM ACT to UAFA
By Melanie Nathan , May 28, 2010
Grassroot sloggers amount to a handful, a small dedicated group that has done an enormous amount of work with no resources at hand. This group of people, some under the Out4Immigration banner and others, unpaid independent activists, have fought hard for the ideal of one basic right – EQUALITY – and in this instance equality under the immigration law.
Gays and Lesbian spouses/partners in the USA cannot sponsor foreign born partners for immigration to the USA, commensurate with that very right, freely exercised, by different-gender couples.
Contextually, this fight has been going on for well over a decade and has a history of Bills introduced, none of which garnished as much traction as the Bill introduced by Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York, last year, The Uniting AMERICAN Families Act. (UAFA)
While on the path to sponsorship and at a time where there were already over 100 co sponsors of the House Bill as well as a significant number of Senators in support, a case occurred in Pacifica, California that brought media and mainstream attention to the issue and the severity of its inequities.
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s introduction of Private Bill #867 into Congress, in support of Shirley Tan’s plight, spurred great LGBT ally Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) into action and the first ever Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for UAFA was held on on June 3rd 2009. This together with a ‘friendly’ and ‘ LGBT rights promising President’, Democratic majority in Congress opened the door for the real possibility of greater sponsorship for UAFA and immigration equality for LGBT permanent partners. (Shirley Tan’s moving testimony at the SJC can be seen and heard here.)
However at that June 03, critical juncture – instead of seizing the opportunity, a small organization known as Immigration Equality, purporting ownership tantamount to domain in this arena of LGBT equality rights, decided with a lobby to some democratic members of Congress, that UAFA could never get the traction it needed as a stand-alone bill in Congress and figured that we would be better off by tying UAFA into Comprehensive Immigration reform, which they asserted was imminent as far back as June of last year.
The more they advocated and the more they pushed for LGBT inclusion in CIR, the more bullets they put in the toe of UAFA as stand alone legislation. This has been covered extensively in my bi-national column here on the LGR site.
Organizations were led by Immigration Equality ORG to believe they had the goods to deliver; and in their advocacy they changed strategy, seeking UAFA’s inclusion in immigration reform, while failing to do any real due diligence, other than to canvass a few representatives in Congress and the Senate.
They also scoped and spoke to a few Latino organizations for support, but failed to take real stock of the impossible task ahead. Soon everyone was equating OUR stand alone ‘equality bill’ with the BIG comprehensive Immigration reform picture.
They sauntered through the Health Care debacle, watching the Democrats fall like flies to political fear, costing the American people ‘The Public Option, ‘ and not for one minute did this self appointed threesome of strategists pay attention to how this would impact immigration reform in the future.
Health Care resulted in Immigration Reform, and not its new hopeful appendage, UAFA, taking a backseat, only to show up now in a much more aggressive anti immigration climate, to wit – Arizona!
Did the genius of Immigration Equality anticipate this? Probably not and they should have known better. But when things happen that one does not anticipate, it is an opportunity for leadership to get out the strategy thermometer and check the temperature. What are the facts behind this story? Accountability and transparency apparently not in the Immigration Equality Lexicon.
Failure in transparency and unwillingness to involve more than a handful, in a decision so momentous, sets Immigration equality up now for having to take responsibility especially having claimed full ownership to the so-called strategy. At the very least,they ought to seek external advice from the community, especially the bi-national community, which happens to be the true owners of the rights at stake. Perhaps Rachel Tiven could have placed a call to Kate Kendell at NCLR and to others, and called for a collection of brains to re assess the picture.
So now in the midst of hailing Congressman Gutierrez for finally coming on board and Senators Schumer, Reid et al for the (mere) framework for Comprehensive immigration reform, and a whole year later – we have indeed put UAFA to bed. Why? Because if we try and advocate for a stand alone UAFA, any representative who is not asleep at the wheel – will simply tell us to wait. Guess what? Another year will go by and the balance in Congress will change and we will be back to square one, while continuing to foster the banishment of our LGBT married and partnered bi-national citizens and residents, some into exile, detention, and unnecessary risky asylum proceedings. Even Shirley Tan remains at great risk!
Yesterday I received information from an activist whom some of you may know as TIFF; and he says “I’m just back from “jail for CIR,” but the talk is edging toward stand alone bills for Ag-Jobs and the Dream Act given the Republicans flat out opposition to anything Obama wants to do. This means we might consider focusing more on UAFA as a stand-alone again as well.”
Hallelujah! A year later someone else is speaking ‘my speak;’ and endorsing the fact that Immigration Equality is no longer qualified to own immigration equality! They have led us on a wild goose chase, all the while collecting the good will and good money of desperate bi-nationals. G-d I hope I am proved wrong; or alternatively they had better wake up and take the fork in the road.
Tiff goes on to say “But generally, whether we go UAFA alone, or in CIR – we still have major opposition from Evangelicals and USCCB that is going unaddressed. I think this is a huge hole in our advocacy.”
I agree but all the more reason to jump start UAFA NOW while we have the chance at shooting for the friendly numbers in Congress. Do not tell me we have no traction! We have not tried. For as long as we have sailed the river of CIR- we have allowed UAFA to submerge. No matter what anyone tells you, advocating for UAFA as a stand alone is vastly different from what Immigration Equality has poured its resources into.
Maybe if the Dream Act, Ag and UAFA – were put into an omnibus – and not set up with the ’12 million biometric pay fines amnesty and fix the border controversy,’ we would get Congress to open their hearts!
Quite frankly when it come to equality related Immigration Bills, the evangelicals are welcome to risk putting their Church communities on the line in a climate that favors equity for gays and lesbians and those who abhor what the Dream Act will remedy, will eventually fall to conscience or take their front row seats in their self preserved Hell.
Recently Tiff put out a letter addressed to the USCCB telling them to STOP their advocacy against our community. ” Some feel,” says Tiff, “that we should be quiet and not rock the boat since we have made gains in terms of being included in various frameworks (which is a great gain, but far from a win.)”
I wonder if he is referring to Immigration Equality here? I chose not to ask.
This articles shows that this struggle is FAR from over, and that the Evangelicals and others will regroup and come back. http://www.congress.org/news/2010/05/26/rift_grows_between_immigration_allies
The hole that Tiff speaks of is our failure as a movement to directly engage the opposition. Most of the work on the religious front is focused on developing support among the more welcoming faiths.
It is here that I must add my agreement by way of example. I would submit to Tiff that it is more than not engaging our opposition, it is a flagrant refusal to engage our opposition when we have the opportunity. Example in point – After Shirley Tan gave testimony at the June 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for UAFA, I left the hearing Room together with Shirl, Jay and then 12 year old twins; we were excited to go door to door in the Dirksen Building to Advocate for UAFA. (The IE switch to CIR advocacy was to start the very next day, when HONDA introduced related legislation.)
We asked the staff (no names mentioned,) from Immigration Equality, for a list of representatives and senators we should go and visit to introduce Shirl, the family and to tell the story. The momentum was significant. We had all afternoon and would have seen anyone.
However we were explicitly told by the IE staffer NOT to waste our time going to visit with Republicans. Naive at the time, I was surprised, because I always believe that even if a person overtly opposes my viewpoint, I have a duty to provide the education in the hope that it could nestle somewhere in the opposition’s subconscious, waiting for that rainy day of reckoning.
Tiff goes on to say, yesterday “that as with any campaign, if we ignore the opposition, they are left unfettered to do their undermining. I really recommend that we concentrate more effort on opposing the USCCB and Evangelicals for UAFA and for our broader movement. I think it’s silly to think that if we are quiet – they will let this happen.”
Yes, I agree TIFF is correct. However we would need to be looking at UAFA as a stand alone and/or include he Dream Act. That would be the best way. To marry the two.
We could move quickly from framework to BILL, and call it Remedial or Equality Immigration Reform – and amnesty and Biometrics and Borders could fall into CIR as a separate piece of legislation; the division is an excellent plan, because the Equality Immigration reform is in essence remedying an inequity to basic existing rights- to existing policy and law.
Whereas Biometrics and Amnesty entertains the conference of a new privilege to undocumented immigrants. The reason to keep border security with this second Bill – would be to encourage Republican votes and same would remain a response to Arizona’s encroachment on Federal law.
Please keep your eyes open for a follow up Article on how we can engage our opposition and how we should push for UAFA as a stand alone, with the possibility of Including DREAM ACT.
By Melanie Nathan
Congressman Nadler – UAFA ‘Will Not Stand Alone’ – Must Fight for ImmigrationEquality Via Reform
Congressman Nadler Outlines UAFA Strategy Bi-nationals Brace For a Crash Landing – Senator Schumer Squarely on the Hook with LGBT Activists
Melanie Nathan, March 23, 2010 – 11.30 PM: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community have long sought parity in US immigration laws. One of the most reprehensible aspects of inequality is one that physically separates spouses and families, especially where a portion of the population is singled out for this prejudicial existence.
Having now accomplished Health Care Reform, it is apparent that President Obama has acquired the momentum and political capital to fuel the leadership necessary to fulfill the next campaign promise, that of immigration reform. Why then are our congressional leaders still asserting impossible?
Late last year, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) introduced HR 4321: the (so called) Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009—or “CIR . “ Now we wait, with bated breath, for the Senate version of the Bill to be introduced, at any moment, by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham, being touted a bi-partisan Bill.
Rep Gutierrez’s Bill, however, snubbed gay and lesbian couples, much to the upset of the LGBT community and bi-national same-sex couples, by failing to attach UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act, H.R. 1024, S. 424) a U.S. bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws against gay couples seeking spousal/ partner sponsorship for green cards, as a critical component to his version of comprehensive immigration reform. Is he thinking that we should not have immigration equality? Is he going to attach UAFA later in the process? Does he think UAFA should be a stand-alone Bill. As to the latter Congressman Nadler, says UAFA will not be a stand alone bill.
Tonight, Congressman Nadler, headlined a special “strategy call,” to discuss the future of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and added to the quandary of the Gutierrez snub; with approximately 100 gay activists and bi-national partners listening in on the call, Congressman Nadler stated emphatically, “The leadership has made it clear that UAFA will only be passed if it is in the form of an attachment to comprehensive immigration reform and that it will not be pursued as stand- alone by the congressional leadership.” (Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps Zoe Lofgren and John Conyers.) While this leadership is refusing to pursue UAFA as a separate Bill, they have subscribed to including us in comprehensive immigration reform as the only possible way bi-nationals same-sex partners would obtain immigration equality, at this time.
So what in heaven’s name was Luis Gutierrez thinking when he excluded UAFA? Did he know leadership would be refusing to pursue UAFA as a stand alone bill? Has there been dialogue between House leadership and Gutierrez; how are they going to reconcile this snub? If you have leadership saying we MUST be included in CIR and the author and sponsor of the Bill failing to do so, what are they thinking? No equality for the queer couples? ANSWER – Call Gutierrez again – write him and say:
“Dear Rep, Gutierrez , Tonight Congressman Nadler told us that House leadership will not pursue UAFA as a stand alone Bill, yet you excluded our b i-national same-sex permanent partners from your Immigration Reform Bill? We demand Answers: 1. Did you know that the leadership refuse to pursue UAFA as a stand alone? 2. Do you intend to leave us out of Immigration reform for the duration of the Process? Unless we receive satisfactory explanation from you, we can only assume prejudice on your part and a desire to keep LGBT immigration law, broken as you fix it for the rest of America.”
Bi-nationals same sex couples now await Senator Schumer’s version of CIR and for him to include UAFA, attached to his Senate reform Bill. Senator Schumer has indicated his support for UAFA, more than once, in a video of his comments at the Hearing for UAFA and in a recent letter to constituents, which we previously reported.
Nadler also mentioned the Schumer letter on tonight’s telephone call, asserting that Senator Schumer’s letter clearly indicates his support of UAFA’s inclusion in CIR. However, Schumer has yet to come out and say that he is including UAFA in his reform bill. What if he does not? Do we ask the same questions of Schumer as we now do of Gutierrez?
An earlier article which I posted on this site, reveals a source close to Senator Schumer informed LGR that the Senator was planning to exclude UAFA; however much pressure has been brought to bear on the Senator, since the article posted, and his letter in fact followed the article, seeming to dispel my revelation and the information which I had received. If the pressure already brought to bear will be of any influence, great! But what if Schumer does not include UAFA? What next? Rep. Nadler said we would have to go through the Judiciary Committee or the Immigration Committee. A little risky strategy – no real plan B and Plan A is not yet more than a vague nod.
When asked about the Catholic Bishops, Nadler confirmed what I reported in my earlier article on LGR, that the Catholic Bishops had in fact given an ultimatum (to Schumer) – they actually came out and said they would NOT support immigration Reform that included UAFA. Nadler said what the Bishops say should not hinder the legislation; albeit they were one of the most powerful groups in the mix and that we must push forward regardless.
This is a supportive Senator – do not allow him to ignore our plight, or to postpone his intent.
“Dear Senator Schumer, you cannot leave us out of CIR; you cannot buckle under the glare of religious groups. You swore an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and now we expect you to abide – the Church has no place in influencing legislation, it flies in the face of everything America Stands for, Please find the courage to do the right thing.”
Nadler asserted that this would be the only way – for UAFA to pass- and that would be via passage with a larger immigration reform bill. The votes would need to be 217 in the House and at least 51 in the Senate. Congressman Nadler has led the fight for UAFA and is highly respected by activists and the LGBT community, reputed to be one of the most dedicated in the fight for immigration equality. His ideas are to be trusted and his leadership followed.
However what if UAFA is NOT included in the immigration reform bill by Schumer? When asked the question, Nadler said that we needed to push very hard, to keep pushing speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Reps Lofgren and Conyers and to really apply the pressure to Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Patrick Leahy,
So with UAFA as a stand- alone now completely out of the purview of our congressional leadership, we must fight for UAFA to be included in reform legislation.
ACTION: According to Rep. Nadler, we must apply the pressure in a BIG way and push very hard now for inclusion– and I although I find this sense of desperation a contradiction to Nadler’s assertion that Schumer’s letter was clear that we will be included in his legislation, I too have to ask you all to continue the aggressive and constant barrage of stories, letters, begging, and what ever it takes – chain yourself to Schumer’s conscience with your heart wrenching stories.
Even if you have sent your story to your own Congressional representative and Senator/s, resend via fax or email; include pictures, and be sure to get copies to Nancy Pelosi, Zoe Lofgren, John Conyers and other leaders in Congress. Send it to President Obama as well, Lindsey Graham, incumbents who need to be re-elected, Senators Leahy, Arlen Specter, Dianne Feinstein, of course Schumer.
Ask your member of congress to take a leadership role and talk to other members to speak up of equality and human rights. Get your relatives to write, make calls. We MUST overwhelm them and it must be now!
If we are not included then there is the possibility that we can be later on in the process and so the pressure must be applied even after an exclusionary Bill is introduced.
Amos Lim from Out4Imigration, who was on the call last night, said that Rep Nadler reiterated that “it is important important to make sure that the Speaker, the Judiciary Committee Chairs and the Immigration Sub-committee Chairs of both the House and the Senate hears from us that LGBT Families needs to be included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.”
Also ask your reps to call Schumer to request him to include UAFA in Immigration reform – this could be done in a phone call. Get on face book, on your blogs, to your families, and twitter and get your friends busy. Demand t leadership by your own representatives. Ask them to approach leadership to bring this the emergency status it deserves.
By: Melanie Nathan
Conflict Resolution, Human Rights & Equality Advocacy
White House Calls for Immigration Reform Discussion with Senators Schumer & Graham
BUT will it include the LGBT community of bi-national partners, will it include the ideal of equality and UAFA.
By Melanie Nathan, San Francisco, March 07, 2010 – President Obama has called Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham to the White House, for a discussion on Monday about moving immigration reform forward. But does this discussion include the LGBT community’s need for inclusion in reform or has it already been determined that the gay and lesbian bi-national partners will not be included in immigration reform.
The two Senators are supposedly working on a Comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why I say supposedly? I have been told, since September last year, that the Bill was about to be introduced, next week – in two weeks and it went on.
I acknowledge that the immigrant community is frustrated that a Bill has not been forthcoming by this administration, despite promises that it would be out this past year. Yes the immigrant community is suffering the horrible impact of a broken system and it must change – but our activists are now making their plight our fight.
Obviously there are Gay and lesbians, et al, caught up in the broken immigration system. They are our brothers and sisters and we feel for the plight. However since when did the LGBT community give its permission for Immigration Equality to move UAFA – a bi-national – same-sex permanent partner equality Bill into an immigration reform BILL so that we could be kind and nice to all the others impacted by the broken system.
I emphasize that the LGBT community has been waiting for a decade, not for comprehensive immigration reform, but for passage of a Bill that would signal equality under the current existing Immigration law.
Now we have been thrown onto the Immigration reform Bus with 12 million others, being led by a withering dangling carrot – being – “think of this we can help so many others beyond just the bi-national community.”
Here is the proof – Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality’s executive director says, “This is a both/and situation for us, not an either/or.” If we fight for truly inclusive reform, we can work to make sure that no one is left behind. And the moment to bring our power to bear – and ensure we are heard and included, too – has now arrived.
Here it is the anchor that sunk the ship – those all too revealing words- come on board the Titanic we guarantee passage remark from Immigration equality. As long as all you activists tow the line and go along with IE, you are sailing, my friends, on the Titanic. Big ship Big sink.
The attempts by pro equality lawmakers have taken the form of several incarnations over the past years, including The Permanent Partners Immigration Act, now defunct and the current UAFA, Uniting American Families Act, introduced into Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
Associated Press reports that according to White House spokesman, Nicholas Shapiro, the President is “looking forward to hearing more about their efforts toward producing a bipartisan bill,” Shapiro said Friday.
Bipartisan? Are there no lessons from healthcare reform? With the current Republican mix of heard hearts, Bipartisan is an oxymoron. Just get the Bill out to a vote. The only Bi one should be thinking is binational. Bipartisan attempts, after the healthcare debacle ought to be off the to do list, with respect Mr. President. When will the Whitehouse get it, these Republicans hate him and want him to accomplish nothing. They want him out of office, so its worth it to them to stick a pitchfork in the heart of any proposed legislation.
Any feigned bipartisanship will in any event require the destruction of the very essence of an immigration bill – the bill will not be comprehensive. We all know that. But anyway in these articles quoted by Pam’s House Blend and Immigration equality Blogs, there is no mention by the White House that the discussions on CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) will include UAFA.
We believe that Senator Schumer has already sold the LGBT community out to the Catholic Bishops (see my earlier post-referenced below.) WE ARE not going to be included in comprehensive reform and (BIG) IF we are – (and I hope Schumer will change his mind) – then surely bringing Graham in we result in us being out the door before we are back in the door that we are already out of…. (get the point?)
If the LGBT community is actually left out from a purely Democratic or even bipartisan Bill, then we cannot afford to hesitate and must produce some real strategy for UAFA as a stand-alone. At the very least we can step up the fight based on the question of equality for the American citizen partner, as opposed to this being an immigration issue for the foreign born partners, who have no inherent rights in terms of our Constitution to immigrate to the USA. Why don’t we attach UAFA to DADT repeal? I am sure DADT will be repealed and UAFA will simply make sense to tag on. That would be easier than chasing CIR.
As long as Immigration Equality thinks we will be productively included to the point of passage in Comprehensive Immigration reform, the longer UAFA as a stand alone sits in the trash can. However once an immigration Bill is out for reform, then we will have a better idea of where we stand and whether Immigration Equality and other activists would be compelled to get their eye back on UAFA.
Based on this purview and the current uncertainty, I believe it is time for Immigration Equality to come clean and to account to us as a community. For now I promise to be quiet about the back door deals. However I do have the following questions for Immigration Equality- perhaps the same I have been asking for many months:
You have assumed the role of pre-eminent lobbyist for this issue- you purport to have done all in your power for UAFA – on behalf of our community – you continue to solicit funds in the name of UAFA and its grass root activists – and – You have directed all LGBT groups into the quagmire of the non-existent immigration reform – tenuously perhaps to come-whilst Healthcare was clearly rendering its prophetic shadow -you NOW owe us ALL a duty, including me, probably your most significant critic, to be transparent.
Immigration Equality, tell us what is your plan. What is your plan – not in theory -practically? Who are you speaking to? What deals have you made on our behalf? Where do we stand if we are not included in CIR? What is plan B? What if we are included in CIR – what are the risks to UAFA as a stand-alone then? You did not give us an opportunity to weigh in on what you termed a complete win for us in June of last year, how about involving us ALL, in an honest assessment, at this time? Are you reassessing your strategy ever? Do you need to assess now if this is a workable route.
Last week I found out that some months back, Immigration Equality tried to silence my voice by writing the editor of this, the Lezgetreal news and blog site. We get over 130,000 hits per month, and amongst my fellow writers, my voice is being heard. It is being heard by grassroots and lawmakers alike. Immigration Equality wrote our Editor in an e-mail asking for me, Melanie Nathan to be axed from LGR because and I quote “She is a loose cannon.” If truth, honesty and transparency define ‘loose cannon,’ then thanks for the title.
But I am sure as there is no contrary opinion on Pam’s Blog and as long as that Blog supports / sponsors Immigration Equality, there are very few contrary opinions for IE to worry about.
From Immigration Equality’s website (reflecting Pam’s House Blend and AP report,) – “Several community groups planned to vent some of that frustration in a news conference Monday in Washington. The groups also are trying to organize tens of thousands of people from around the country for a March 21 demonstration in Washington.” Please note these are Immigration reform groups from the larger community.
Immigration Equality and other organizations of the LGBT community are also planning various activities, protests, hoping for visibility to be included in Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
While I support visibility; I do not support the lengths we have gone to and the effort still to come, to get noticed for inclusion in an immigration reform Bill, because our issue is lost, especially while people like Tiven, advocate for immigration for all and broken systems ahead of equality? IE say we are here for the good of all! It should be first and foremost be about equality.
This strategy has cost us more than a year more, and we are not on the cards for inclusion. The effort should have been going to UAFA – all of it- we could still have marched on the 21st, because by that time you may have had double the support on UAFA and our inclusion would have been organic, by virtue of a lot more being brought to the table.
“The president’s commitment to fixing our broken immigration system remains unwavering,” Shapiro said.” Well thank you but what about EQUALITY. Bi-national LGBT Equality. I wonder if that will even be brought into discussion. If Senator Schumer is planning to exclude us from the Bill, I would ask for his kindness in speaking to the President about UAFA and for some leadership to move the LGBT cause forward in the form of UAFA.
March for Visibility, March for UAFA, March for UAFA’s inclusion on CIR -thats fine but please Immigration Equality, do not patronize us with your BS that we should be here for the good of all. That would be a poor excuse for your mistake.
PICTURE : taken 3-6-10 – Yesterday Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado, Mammy, Jashley and Jorienne attended my daughter Hannah’s Bat-mitzvah in Marin County. All I can think of is that it is almost a year since I spearheaded the effort for Shirley’s Private Bill. Unfortunately, UAFA has got nowhere and Shirl and her family are still waiting for the final piece of legislation that will secure her ability to remain in the USA.
LGBT Immigration Rights one Year Milestone for Out4Immigration
Out4Immigration’s Weekly Letter Writing Campaign for LGBT Immigration Rights Marks 1-Year Milestone
Grassroots Group’s Messages to Congress Call for Passage of Uniting American Families Act, Equal Immigration Rights for Same-Sex Binational Couples
Melanie Nathan reporting from SAN FRANCISCO, CA—March 1, 2010—One year ago, Gina Caprio, an American citizen living in Sacramento, CA was determined to do something to change the way unjust US immigration law was affecting her life. Caprio had fallen in love with someone in the UK a few years earlier. The relationship had taken the usual twists and turns associated with a long-distance romance, but when Caprio and her partner decided they wanted to live together in the US, a door slammed shut. Caprio’s UK partner is a woman – and together they are a same-sex binational couple – one of more than 36,000 according to a Human Rights Watch Report.
Because the US does not recognize same-sex relationships in any form at the federal level, the US half of the couple cannot sponsor their foreign partner for legal residency here. While opposite-sex binational couples have long taken advantage of marriage as a means to stay together in the US – same-sex couples, whether married or not, remain harshly discriminated against.
“When I heard the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) had just been re-introduced in Congress, I knew I had to do something that would make sure this legislation would pass,” said Caprio.
She joined Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer group made up of same-sex binational couples, their families and other supportive individuals and learned from them that UAFA needed more co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate.
While this, the fifth re-introduction of the bill by Rep. Jerrold Nadler [D-NY-8] and Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-VT] came with 80 co-sponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate, it was nowhere near the number needed to gain a judiciary hearing, much less a floor vote.
“We drafted a form letter that allowed space for people to tell how hard it was to be in a same-sex binational relationship in America and started contacting previous co-sponsors of the bill by email, fax and snail mail,” Caprio said. Out4Immigration has about 400 active members around the world. Using the Change.org website, Facebook and Twitter, these members spread the word about the campaign and each week’s targets.
“We saw results of the weekly letter writing campaign almost immediately,” said Mickey Lim, Vice President of Out4Immigration. “Rep. Ed Pastor [D-AZ-4] and Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand [D-NY] were quick to read our stories and sign on. But the real indication that we were making an impact – that our voices were being heard – was when Congressional staffers called us and said ‘You’re jamming our fax lines and crashing our email systems!’ You have to send a lot of messages to do that.”
Tom Tierney, another Out4Immigration volunteer joined the letter writing campaign and added a weekly “Call Congress” action after the June hearing. A revised letter now asks five members of Congress each week to co-sponsor UAFA as well as support same-sex binational couples in comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). A bill introduced by Rep. Mike Honda [D-CA- 15] last September called the Reuniting Families Act (RFA), is inclusive. A Senate version of that bill, however, is not.
When a bill by Rep. Luis Gutierrez [D-IL-4] called “CIR ASAP” omitted same-sex binational couples late last year, “our members and their families jammed his phone lines,” Lim says. And, when rumors circulated that Sen. Charles Schumer [D-NY] might be considering leaving same-sex bi-nationals out of his Senate counterpart bill, “our members were quick to act and call his office, too.”
“The people we target each week are selected based upon their past voting records on LGBT and immigration issues, as well as the committees on which they sit in their respective chambers of Congress,” explains Tierney, who continues to try to net some Republican support to go with the so-far all-Democrat numbers.
Last week, UAFA picked up a key co-sponsor, Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA-35], bringing the total number of House supporters to 120 – more co-sponsors than any other immigration bill. “In total, we’ve seen 5 Senators and over 20 members of the House sign on as UAFA co-sponsors after we’ve written to them. They’re getting the message,” says Tierney.
Meanwhile, Gina Caprio and her partner have temporarily overcome their separation through a student visa. “But the emphasis here is on the word ‘temporary,’” says Caprio. Until same-sex binational couples are recognized at the federal level, either through passage of UAFA or its inclusion in larger CIR, the Out4Immigration letter writing campaign will continue.
“No one should have to choose between their country and their family,” says Lim. “Our letters and phone calls address the very real issue that LGBT Americans with foreign partners have very few legal options to live together in this country.”
I have been fortunate to work with Out4Immigration on bi-national campaigns and what I find so remarkable about the group is the consistency and dedication in the leadership of a few volunteers who are constantly mustering up the forces to get the work done. This has not been easy and I certainly encourage more of you to heed their calls to action. It is working. The unsung heroes include Kathy Drasky, Amos Lim, Gina Caprio, who testified with me at the California State Assembly Judiciary hearing for UAFA (AJR15) which will come to a California Senate hearing soon. These people are not paid for the many many hours that they devote to this cause. If you want to support their efforts please visit their website at Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org
Posted By Melanie Nathan, [email protected]
Private Courts Inc.
Human Rights and Advocacy
Change.org Out4Immigration Letter Writing Campaign: http://www.change.org/actions/search?search=lgbt+immigration+rights
The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR01024:@@@P
The Uniting American Families Act (S.424): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN0424:
Human Rights Watch Report: Family Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under US Law: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2006/05/01/family-unvalued
Shirley Tan / Feinstein Private Bill: http://www.out4immigration.org/assets/pdf/immeqla/ShirleyTan_People.pdf
Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR02709:|/bss/d111query.html
Immigration Reform, Binational Anger Builds – Plea by Reps to include UAFA-
Melanie Nathan, February 08, 2010 . On the 3rd of February I posted the news that Senator Schumer will not be including our LGBT families in his immigration reform Bill. Amongst the very many e-mails sent to me as a result, here is one example, sent to us by a very angry binational same-sex partner. http://lezgetreal.com/?p=25829 I reported – ” Have you ever wondered why a long silence actually starts to sound like a deafening noise? It is now that the silence from Senator Schumer is deafening, with the shocking revelation from a reliable source informing me that Senator Schumer will not be including UAFA or LGBT rights in his immigration reform bill to be introduced in the weeks ahead”
Perhaps this forthcoming exclusion is what sparked todays letter by 60 Congressional representatives to the President and Congress, urging inclusion of gay and lesbian families in immigration reform or via UAFA. The effort led by Rep Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to the White House and Congress to urge support for UAFA and LGBT inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform. Soon thereafter our website, known for its assertive coverage of the binational plight was visited again by members of Congress and offices much higher than that. Perhaps the White House is going to take action.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the lead House sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, which would also end discrimination against LGBT binational families, asserts “We must take the government out of the business of singling out LGBT families for discriminatory treatment and live up to our democratic ideal of equality under the law,” Nadler said. “I join my colleagues in calling on Congress and the White House to include the Uniting American Families Act, which I have introduced in every Congress since 2000, in any immigration reform legislation, and end discrimination against binational LGBT families.”
What I find particularly disconcerting is that Immigration Equality, who holds itself out as the “pre-imminent” organization for immigration equality rights, has failed to come forward with the knowledge that Senator Schumer is not planning to include us, and continues to MISLEAD us by their silence.
Does IE have a duty to play level with binationals? I believe they do for as long as they find themselves in the number one slot on the issue. What has stopped them from keeping us fully informed?
This organization has led us down a treacherous and unwise path – into the corner we now find ourselves, and still they make decisions without our involvement as a community. They have made a choice to side with those who do not want us and to try and convince the strongest of all faith based powers that it is a good idea to include gays and lesbians.
So now that the White House has been alerted to Act –
The question becomes:
1. Would you like to see quick and soon passage of UAFA as a standalone; Or
2. Are you ready for the long and hateful haul of immigration reform;
The difference between the two lies in the philosophy: Whereas the first seems to rest on equality the second will rest on immigration. Which is the tougher argument. Will the immigrant community be impressed by the fact that the house already has 60 on board for immigration reform? Will that make them think we are worthy to their cause?
While much hated in the eyes of so many in this Country – gays and lesbians, et al, may now be coupled with the other most disliked group – whom the conservatives choose to refer to as ‘illegal aliens,’ and progressives refer to as ‘undocumented workers/immigrants.’
It is already apparent that even amongst those immigrants seeking respite from the woes of the system, resentment is building because some feel they have a much more worthy cause than ‘the gays’ – I have received emails to this effect – more worthy because we are maybe 100,000 and they are 12 million in number.
Schumer is known to have stated that he has chosen to abate the voracious displeasure of the Catholic community. Can you imagine once we are included what is yet to come?
That said perhaps Schumer will be doing us a favor.
I too am calling on President Obama to PLEASE urge Congress to pass a stand-alone Bill right now – UAFA. I for one will be glad to accept an amendment to the Current Nadler legislation – where the evidentiary proof of permanent partnership must include an affirming certificate from any Jurisdiction in the World. (eg. marriage certificate, DP or civil union certificate.) That will dismantle the fraud argument because we will be on a level playing field with the straight spousal community.
Please help us avert a faith based immigration vs. LGBT equality battle – already emerging.
A READER’S LETTER (amongst hundreds) ;Sunday, February 07, 2010
Senator Chuck Schumer
Congressman Peter king
State Department, Hilary Clinton
Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi
Congressman Steve Israel
Melanie Nathan at
New York Times
“To Senator Chuck Schumer
I never thought that I would be calling you a liar and a cheat but I was wrong. When I watched you at the UAFA Senate hearing I was so happy that you where a senator from Long Island standing up to the right wing nuts, the church and all the bigots in this country. But after reading a story on Lezgetreal.com (http://lezgetreal.com/?p=25829 ) I was so wrong about you! I guess you are like all the rest that say something and turn around and do something else.
After I talked to L. Fresco in your office I thought I could just sit back and just wait till you came out with the bill on Immigration reform but once again my government let me down. He had told me that you where not going to include the UAFA into your bill till the Latino senators and congressman were made happy and they got their way.
Because I was told they would block the bill and not support it. It looks like you couldn’t get there support so you turned your back on us. Because of you and senator Gillibrand and Congressman Peter King I now have to make plans on leaving my country for good to be with my husband, yes we are legally married in Canada and 20 other countries. I’ve sent your office my marriage Lic, faxed it to your DC office, and hand delivered it to your long island office.
Not only that I had sent the forms from the US state department to sponsor my husband but didn’t get an answer from you, Gillibrand, Peter King and the white house. This was to proof that I am legally married to a non American and asking for help to sponsor him into this once great country. But since this is a gay issue and an immigrations issue no one will help.
Just to let you know I am now going to contact ever single congressman, senator and newspaper in this country to let them know that you lied in a the senate hearing (6/2/2009) and because of your actions not including the uniting American families act into your immigration reform bill anther taxpaying US citizen has to leave his home land for good.
I’m really mad and upset that I’m sitting here and my husband is half way around the world all because of the Republican Party and the church that has it in for gay rights and civil rights. I’m really mad and upset that the Democratic Party for not having a back bone and standing up to the right wing. I’m also mad and upset that I can be legally married in 20 countries and the country that claims civil rights has very little to gay people. I’m also mad and upset at Chuck Schumer for talking the talk but can’t walk the walk! I’m, also upset that the US state department is handing out visas like water to the people of Haiti and I can’t get one for my husband who has legal rights to one being married to an American. What a wonderful country this is, ya right!
Thank you for your none help!
I, am a US Taxpayer who can’t get any help
Action Alert –February 8th, 2010
At 10:30am on February 11 — one week after our call-in to Senator Schumer’s office — the Long Island Immigrant Alliance will hold a rally outside of Schumer’s Melville office (145 Pine Lawn Road, Melville, NY 11747). The rally will show support for Senator Schumer’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, which would fix a broken immigration system, end the exploitation and demonization of immigrants, strengthen our economy by $1.5 trillion, and support our nation’s values. For more information about the rally, call 631-789-0720 Long Island Immigrant Alliance …
IMPORTANT – None of this would be necessary as this would all be moot if DOMA were repealed and Sexual orientation was included in the Civil Rights Act.
BREAKING: Out 4 Immigration Spearheads New All Inclusive Plan for UAFA
San Francisco, – Out 4 Immigration addresses , a small yet influential organization, 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.
This group has had at its helm, Amos Lim, Tom T., and Kathy Drasky who have put heart and soul into the efforts of seeking immigration equality for binational couples. There is no budget and it is all unpaid.
As my readers know I have never subscribed to the view of Comprehensive Immigration Reform taking control of our efforts in so far as UAFA is concerned. I am skeptical of the power of the religious and faith bases communities. Already the Catholic arm has indicated that they will not support LGBT inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform CIR and we have been excluded from one profound and recent introduction of the Guiterrez Bill .
I have been writing about this since the UAFA hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee last June, and was mortified by the fact that we were lead down the path of the very invisible comprehensive immigration reform at that time; which has thus far remained, certainly as far as the big picture is concerned, an enigma. I believed that we lost our critical timing for UAFA as a stand alone bill; and I blame the group, Immigration Equality one hundred percent for that unsolicited path. I believe if we would have utilized more at hand last year, and jumped on the UAFA hearing’s bandwagon, we would have many more sponsors in Congress, possibly a stand alone, and a better chance at CIR, now! Alas!
That said, I fully support the endeavors of this new initiative by OUT 4 Immigration, set out in the letter below. It is clear that Immigration Equality may have finally come to the realization that three people in Ny/DC are not decision makers for us all, and if they continue in that vein, they will continue to miss the great opportunties of many more adept brains and field workers. IE’s co-operation in this endeavor, be it a partnership or sponsorship, I am not sure, is indicative of the fact that they need the grass roots and are now finally willling to make use of the wide network created by Out 4 Immigration, an organization that they have barely acknowledged in the past.
On the other hand perhaps they are less willing, yet see that their isolation- ‘we own immigration equality’ approach has not worked, so they either need to have someone share in their strategy to avoid full blame, or they are seeing that OUT4Immigration has a coat tail wide enough for a good and productive ride.
I hope that donors will consider sending some of their money to OUT4 Immigration, because the latter group has none and have done an incredible amount of work that has indeed provided IE with much of its external fuel. At the end of the day, whatever happens, IE will send out a press release, claiming ownership to ALL that is accomplished in relation to immigration rights for LGBT couples.
This would be unfair. While you may ask “why unfair? As long as we get our rights!” I say unfair because to ask for donations, based on the achievements of others, resulting in the exclusion of so many, in my book is iniquitous and unfair to the hard work of out 4 Immigration. They should share in the accolade especially that accolade is the strategy IE uses by which to obtain donations.
Out 4 Immigration has a zero budget and has accomplished an extraordinary position in this fight.
I welcome this initiative and fully support it, as well as urge all binationals to chip in here by way of legwork and to continue to tell your stories.
I support this for two simple reasons:-
1. Because we have no choice, having been cornered into CIR, we have lost UAFA as a stand alone; CIR may work and we may or may nor be included. If not then we have wasted a year, if we are included that would be fantastic, as long as we do not become the “public option” of CIR.
2. Because we have no choice, means we must work to be included in CIR. It is going to be very difficult to win the hearts and minds of the faith based communities, especially in light of the increasing visibility of the anti-gay movement, be it here or abroad. This must be tackled aggressivelyand finally these courageous activists provide visibility to an all-inclusive plan .
Here is the Plan per Letter from:-
“Dear LGBT Immigration Rights Activists,
To multiply the energy behind UAFA and augment the likelihood of its inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), we are proud to present the attached:
2010 Ten State Campaign: “Comprehensive=Inclusive Immigration Reform” C=IIR.
The C=IIR Campaign was created by Todd (Tif) Fernandez, a human rights attorney and experienced legislative director, and myself. It is being implemented with support from Out4Immigration and ActOnPrinciples.org, and in coordination with Immigration Equality and others.
The broad idea behind C=IIR is to:
1. Gather the UAFA strategy information in one place
2. Narrowly identify key legislative targets and opposition
3. Create a simple focused Plan to inspire local activists and the LGBT movement to engage in this issue.
The plan – coined the “2010 Ten State Plan” – focuses on states with the largest immigration communities, as well as the main Committee (Judiciary), Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and drafters (Senator Schumer, Senator Graham, Congresswoman Lofgren).
We’ve also highlighted the opposition of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and juxtaposed that with other countries that already allow same-sex partner sponsorship, with much larger Catholic populations than the US. We plan to increase the response to this type of harmful advocacy, and to flush out less obvious opposition, working with LGBT Catholic organizations and other faith groups.It has 3 focuses: 1. Generating City Council Resolutions in each state, as NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, and others have done, both as a means of bolstering indirect representation for those afraid to speak up, and to provide local activists substantive interim and achievable goals. 2. Targeting select representatives for grassroots pressure in the 10 states (particularly Hispanic Caucus members in Texas) 3. Joining the broader local CIR campaign for many reasons: • To support the LGBT 5% of that group who are harshly affected by the current system • To motivate our movement to represent our minorities • To be part of the team when CIR negotiations begin and end, and • Because the immigration community is our partner’s community.
The next step is to find activists (you?) in each state willing to organize C=IIR Teams in their state, and/or work on any individual piece of the plan (one legislator, a resolution, opposition research, media, etc.) supported closely by Todd, Tom and others.
With this plan – activists anywhere can act individually, with local groups, or in coordination with us. However you choose, please let us know of your success (and any resistance you encounter).
All volunteers, groups and skill sets are welcome. If you can work hard, use the internet, and communicate, we’ll guide you through the rest. Ideally, local teams will blossom and lead those efforts.
If you have contacts to: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas or Washington – you’re in the 10 States. But no matter where you’re from, if you want to work on this, contact us – there’s plenty to do and targets everywhere.
With your help, we look forward to making sure C=IIR!
Please come join the 2010 CIIR team at: [email protected]
or on Facebook: C=IIR
Facebook link: http://tinyurl.com/CIIRonFB
Read the plan: http://tinyurl.com/CIIR2010-TenStatePlan
Download the PDF: http://www.eQualityGiving.org/files/Home/Comprehensive-Inclusive-Immigration-Campaign.pdf
Please feel free to post the attached button JPEG to your Facebook page or on your website/blog if you have one, and friend C=IIR on Facebook.
Tom & Todd
p.s. C=IIR will be informally launched at Creating Change in Dallas on 2/4/2010 with 1,000 buttons being distributed to LGBT Activists.”
By: Melanie Nathan.
Private Courts, Inc. Human Rights Advocacy
Photo, Kathy Drasky, Out 4 Immigration, SF Parade 2009. Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado, Twins and Melanie Nathan.
Senator Gillibrand Tells LGBT audience to PUSH Reps for UAFA…. Must be passed by the Spring….
By Melanie Nathan, Feb 01, 2010
Today a Binational married lesbian couple (names private) attended Senator Gillibrand’s meet and greet at the LGBT Center in NYC. They went armed with a letter setting out their dire circumstances, including reference to the unconscionable detention suffered by one of the spouses.
After asking the pertinent question about the passage of Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and its relationship to comprehensive Immigration reform (CIR) , the Senator spoke specifically of an integrated approach. Privy to this information through my advocacy on behalf of this particular couple I was told- “Meeting with Sen. Gillibrand was great; she’s indeed a great advocate for the LGBT community. She seems a very authentic person, genuine, kind and responsive, sensitive to all matters regarding LGBT issues. The Senator referred to Sen. Schumer who is writing the bill. She also said that CIR and UAFA should be on the table by the end of this year, so it can be passed by spring. She stressed the fact that it is important to have things dealt with before March. They’re going for an integrated approach.”
This may be interpreted to confirm that CIR will in fact include UAFA, when introduced by Senator Schumer. However in August of 2009, when I asked Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality why would we be concerned that an overt champion of UAFA and LGBT issues such as Schumer would fail to include LGBT in CIR, she cautioned that there was no guarantee that Senator Schumer would in fact include UAFA. However it would seem that Senator Gillibrand may now be providing some valuable insight as to what we can expect.
That said, we must take heed of the Senator’s most fervent suggestion. We cannot ignore the overt and bland advice when she told her participants today that she recommends we push, push and push for the legislation now. That we write like we have never written before and specifically that we bombard our representatives, urgently. I know out4Immigration is doing an amazing job in the 34th week of their letter writing campaign, but it is not enough and they cannot do it all. We need to hear from our brothers and sisters in the community who may not be directly impacted by this.
The Senator emphasized the importance of Senator Schumer introducing Immigration reform legislation by year’s end; and the fact that it is imperative that the legislation passes by Spring 2010, the latter in her estimation possibly being a last opportunity.
I challenge every single person reading this, regardless of whether their rep is supportive or not of the Uniting American Families Act, to get 5 members of your community, friends, family to write and simply as follows: “Where do you stand on Uniting American Families Act and will you support it in comprehensive immigration reform. What are you doing to ensure this legislation passes before the Spring.” That’s all you have to do!!!
At the moment though, everybody is focused on DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) as priority and that seemed to dominate the conversation, especially given that Lt. Dan Choi was there to introduce the Senator.
A community, advocates and activists, thank Senator Gillibrand for holding the meet and greet on this perfect Sunday. In doing so she clearly displays her championship of our equality and that there is a good chance she could step forward to lead the more timid amongst our allies.
Caucus Letter to President, House, and Senate Leadership; Now- Melanie Nathan: “this makes the Case for UAFA as an Urgent Stand Alone!”
Melanie Nathan Posts – San Francisco, 2/09/ 2010 – Baldwin, Frank, Polis, Nadler, Honda, Quigley Seek to End Discrimination for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Binational Families.
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Congressmen Barney Frank (D- MA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Mike Quigley (D-IL), joined by more than 50 Members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have sent a letter to President Obama and House and Senate leaders expressing their strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would end discrimination against LGBT binational families.
“There is simply no place for discrimination in America,” said Congresswoman Baldwin. “LGBT families are being torn apart by inequitable immigration laws that deny same sex married couples and domestic partners the same rights and obligations as their married heterosexual neighbors. As we tackle comprehensive immigration reform, it’s imperative that we end discriminatory laws that hurt couples, their children and extended families, and their communities and employers,” Baldwin said.
“We are a nation of immigrants and, as a result, our diversity is our greatest strength,” said Congressman Polis. “Unfortunately, our out-dated immigration system contains laws that discriminate against LGBT families and hinder our economy, our diversity, and our status as a beacon of hope and liberty to people across the world. To be truly comprehensive and achieve real, long-lasting reform, we must provide all domestic partners and married couples the same rights and obligations in any immigration legislation,” Polis said.
“Comprehensive immigration reform will only be truly comprehensive if it includes LGBT families,” said Congressman Nadler. “We must take the government out of the businesses of singling out LGBT families for discriminatory treatment and live up to our democratic ideal of equality under the law. I join my colleagues in calling on Congress and the White House to include the Uniting American Families Act, which I have introduced in every Congress since 2000, in any immigration reform legislation and end discrimination against binational LGBT families,” Nadler said.
“As Vice Chair of the Equality Caucus, I am excited to support the Caucus’s call for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Congressman Honda. “Last June, I included same-sex permanent partners in my Reuniting Families Act, H.R. 2709, because the reunification of all families must be the cornerstone of our immigration policy. That the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, and Progressive Caucus, stand beside the Asian Caucus, which I chair, in this call for reform reminds me of the diversity of communities affected by our broken immigration system. The time to help our economy, reunite our families, all our families, and to live up to our values as a nation of immigrants is now,” Honda said.
“It saddens me to think that the struggle for immigration reform, a movement based on the fundamental principles of equality and the decent treatment of every human being, could push on without including LGBT families,” said Congressman Quigley. “If we are to truly consider a proposal deemed ‘comprehensive,’ we must include everyone. The beauty of America is that somewhere in each of our lineages, someone made the choice to come here, to a country built on fairness and justice. We must continue to honor that tradition not just for some, but for all,” Quigley said.
Under current law, LGBT Americans are unable to sponsor their spouses or partners for legal residency in the U.S. and, as a result, tens of thousands of binational families are either living separately, facing imminent separation, or have left the U.S. entirely in order to remain together. This policy often separates children from a parent, causes businesses to lose valuable employees, and forces state, local and the federal government to lose hardworking taxpayers.
A California mother of two who has been with her American citizen partner for 23 years, Shirley Tan, was detained by immigration and faces future deportation. Ms. Tan, who is also the primary caregiver for her partner’s elderly mother, faces the very real possibility of being torn away from her family unless immigration reform includes LGBT couples, too.
In Wisconsin, a valued language teacher, Lucie Ferrari, was forced to leave the country causing her American partner (they are legally married in Canada) to give up her job as a neighborhood organizer and leave as well, so they could be together.
In Minnesota, an American citizen is currently considering closing her small business – which generates more than one million dollars annually – so that she can leave the country in order to be with her Malaysian partner.
In Vermont, a physician who worked with wounded troops at a local Veterans Administration medical facility recently quit his job, and moved to a part-time position elsewhere, so he will be able to travel frequently to South America to be with his partner.
Each of these stories is heart-wrenching and damaging to many, many lives and, unfortunately, all too common. Every day, loving, hard-working families are torn apart because of discriminatory immigration laws.
The Members call on President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Chuck Schumer, and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, Zoe Lofgren, to include the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024/S. 424) in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
My Commentary – I cannot understand why this does not simply make the case for UAFA as a Stand alone. How can such a powerful caucus not have the gumshen to get this through congress, on the basis of INEQUALITY and not on the basis of IMMIGRATION REFORM.
I do not understand why we are entering the complexity (or should I say why we have been cornered into it) of comprehensive immigration reform. Of course we should be included in CIR – but that ought to have been organic.
In the meantime these very congressional reps should have fought like crazy for us binationals and the egregious inequality we have suffered. So now that they are finally making the argument in such a forceful fashion, having been pushed by the fact that Schumer is planning to exclude us, I say get UAFA passed NOW. Please Mr. President make that a priority. If you add us to CIR there will be an enormous amount of fall out, not that I am sugegsting you don’t if that is the onl;y option.
You, this powerful Caucus ought to first attempt UAFA as a stand-alone in earnest. Before CIR is even announced. It can then be tacked on. But please let us stop waiting for CIR-….. The argument for us is simple -E Q U A L I T Y first – immigration second.
A copy of the letter follows. Copy with all signatures is attached.
February 2, 2010
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
313 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Zoe Lofgren
Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law
102 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schumer, and Chairwoman Lofgren:
As members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are writing to express our strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform bill which would end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) binational families. We urge Congress to include the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024/S. 424) in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Currently, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses (and other immediate family members) for immigration purposes. But, same-sex partners committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as “families” under U.S. immigration law and thus do not have this same right. As a result, tens of thousands of binational families are either already living separately, face imminent separation, or have left the U.S. entirely in order to remain together. This is unacceptable, and we believe comprehensive immigration reform legislation must include a strong family reunification component inclusive of LGBT families.
According to 2000 census data compiled by the Williams Institute, an estimated 36,000 LGBT binational families are impacted by the inability to sponsor their partners for residency, and nearly half of those (47 percent) are raising children. Our existing, discriminatory immigration laws hurt not only those individuals, but their extended families, communities, and employers, as well. Not only would an inclusive family reunification provision strengthen American families, it would bolster the competitiveness of businesses in the U.S. by allowing corporations to attract, employ, and retain the very best talent from across the globe. Indeed, the U.S. lags behind 19 countries that already recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.
In truth, no immigration reform bill can be called “comprehensive” unless it includes all Americans, including those who are LGBT. This is recognized in the Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709), which includes LGBT families in addressing the broader immigration problem of family unification.
We urge you to include LGBT binational families in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. No one should be forced to choose between the person they love and the country they call home. It is time that our immigration laws kept families together instead of tearing them apart.
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Congressmen Barney Frank (D- MA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Mike Quigley (D-IL), et. al.
February 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm
Please end the ungodly suffering of bi-nationals like me. Our treatment is not at all American.
If you’re happy and comfortable living with your family members, think about me, who’s been living for 6 years, separated by thousands of miles and an ocean, from the man I love and want to share my life with. Try to imagine the insanity of living this kind of life, especially when you know that your own country is doing this to you – even the President and elected representatives who know about our condition, are just letting it continue, year after year. Please read some of our stories. Ask to interview us. Ask the President and Members of Congress why they’re letting our suffering continue. As your churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and covens why they keep silent.
Blessings to all of you!
Our stories: http://imeq.us/our_stories/stories.html