Melanie Nathan reporting after UAFA hearing in Washington D.C. June 03, 2009 – Testimony Julian Bond NAACP; Shirley Tan, Gordon Stewart and Christopher Nugent, for UAFA and opposed are Vaughan and Beck mouthpieces for Senator Sessions and his anti immigrant sentiments.
The Senate Committee hearing room today was packed with press, staffers , young civil rights lawyers and most importantly a smattering of love exiles, who flew in from abroad for the historic event. Too long ignored, these brave few have worked from the trenches trying desperately to have their stories heard. Today the stories of thousands were embedded in the moving and powerful testimony of Shirley Tan, a housewife from Pacifica who could face deportation Families Act and Gordon Stewart, an executive with Pfizer, who has been forced out of the US into exile and can never come home with his husband until passage of the Uniting American Families Act.
The futile testimony of the opposing GOP witnesses fell flat on its meritless belly, with its inability to acknowledge the desperate plight of Shirley and Gordon and their respective families. Senator Sessions sat stone faced through Shirley’s testimony and completely ignored her as if she was not there. Had I not been sitting in the front row, to witness this offensive parody I doubt I would have believed the the extent of the invalidation.
In a nutshell the GOP argument was:
- There are too many immigrants – let us not provide for more;
- If we give these people the right t petition for their permanent partners, we are ignoring DOMA, the ban on marriage, and in essence we are giving the gays marriage rights; and
- If we allow gays to sponsor each other then we are opening the door to more fraud.
This fell so flat that one exile in the audience, my friend, Martha McDevitt –Pugh commented that the GOP testimony and comments of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) were so futile that it “didn’t even bug me.”
When Shirley Tan testified, one of her sons, Jashley broke down sobbing, the trigger being Shirley’s account of her detention when she was handcuffed like a criminal in a way she has only ever seen on TV. Shirley said all she could do was think about her family, Jay and the boys and her ailing mother-in-law. She cried. “who would take care of them?”
Senator Leahy was visibly moved and stopped the hearing to offer Jashley a room to go to if he was too upset. But Jashley was going to stick by mom at all costs, even his sobbing would not take him away.
I am going to add pictures and report more. There is much out there about the extraordinary day. Senator Schummer, Senator Specter, Congress Reps Nadler and Congresswoman Jackie Speier all made moving and supportive presentations. It was so stunning, especially Specter’s support, that I wanted to freeze frame the moment to place into eternity as if this would be the sensibility of all.
After the hearing and a light lunch we all went, by invitation to Senator Leahy’s office for a photo op- official Senate photographer and a chat. He was charming, friendly and took us into his office to see pictures of his grandchildren. After signing a batman movie poster for each of the boys, and our very grateful group decided to take time to lobby. We decided we would go to as many Senators as possible to thank those who supported or co-sponsored UAFA and to question those who did not.
Then the most remarkable occurrence, Jorienne asked to if he could go to Senator Session’s office because he had a question he needed to ask the Senator. So we trudged off to the very Senator who mere hours before had begrudged our existence as he invalidated Shirley and her family, with his blatant and flagrant failure to greet them. His ommission served as a metaphore to deny all de facto recognition of an entire LGBT community. Sessions snubbed this perfect family from Pacifica. The Tan-Mercado presence and predicament, according to Sessions, was simply not worth a greeting.
I agreed to accompany the children to Session’s office. When we all walked in the staffers could have fallen flat on their backs with surprise. We were the last people on earth they would have expected to show up. I announced that we were there because the twins wanted to ask the Senator a questions. He was not in the office and so his Chief Counsel attended to us instead. He was most hospitable and I could detect a sense of embarrasement (maybe wishful thinking.) In the conference room Jorienne blurted his question: “ If Senator Sessions is against UAFA , please ask him what we can do to save my mom to keep her at home with us? Wow, the room fell silent and I was stunned by the paradox; the simplicity attributed to a complex problem. It took a twelve year old to hit the spot – the Senator had ignored his family and he was demanding recognition. As it turned out it was actually a productive discussion with the Staffer and we gained much by the experience. Did anyone ever say kids were our best teachers? In updating this article we have waited for 8 weeks with no response from the Senator. We will write the question and send it to the Senator c/o Bradley.
Senator Jeff Sessions is a hateful bigot – his behavior today was nothing short of disgusting. I never heard it myself but I was told by staffers at the hearing that Sessions remarked that Jashley’s uncontrollable upset at his Mom’s trauma was nothing about histrionics”. This man has no heart and is an embarrassment to this Country and the Senate, not to mention Alabama. Now that I have been privy to the video below I am blown away by the irony of his standing on the Senate Judiciary committee – that this piece of garbage has any power over my being at all. Wait to end to hear what Sen Edward Kennedy had to say about him.
AWESOME! BTW the Tan-Mercado kids are such champs! How can people not see the extraordinary job their parents have done? This is just a matter of time.
Interestingly, Rep JAckie Speir when doing a home visit to meet them, spent about one and a half hours in their home. She was awestruck by their demeanor, depth of understanding and sense of protection toward their mother. At the hearing she mentoned how extraordinary they were in her opening statement. When visiting Senator Leahy in his office, Jorienne told the Senator that he was confused because he was thinking of becoming President but now he wants to be a surgeon. Today at the LGBT House Caucus briefing, The both comforted their mom, Shirley who broke into sobs when shen spoeaking about her ordeal wityh detention; today it seemed as if everything has come to a head for Shirley – the pressure of the past two days and the newfound celebrity status probably proving to be overwhelming at this point. This is a courageous family and deserve all the support they can get. Thanks for visiting my blog and keep your eye open for more unique content. Melanie Nathan