A Concrete Example of How the United States Deprives Gay/Lesbian Couples of Freedoms Enjoyed by Heterosexual Couples
The text below is an actual email sent by a personal friend on October 24, 2006. Her email clearly demonstrates that, far from seeking "special treatment," gay/lesbian couples do not even have the same basic freedoms of heterosexual couples. Such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be illegal.
I CAN'T live there [the United States]. It's not
a matter of not wanting to or of "running off." As it stands now, [my
partner] and I don't have a choice.
Here's how U.S. immigration law works: If you're a U.S. citizen married to someone who is not a U.S. citizen, then you have the right to sponsor your foreign spouse to live and work in the U.S. Under current immigration law, there is no provision for same-sex partners to do the same. None. Zip. Nothing. So, U.S. immigration law does not allow me to sponsor [my partner], who is a British citizen, to live and work in the U.S. (There is legislation out there that would change that -- It's called the Uniting American Families Act. It's around a long time, and it hasn't passed yet.)
You can't get a civil partnership in Vermont or a marriage in Mass. or a marriage in Canada and use that to get your foreign partner into the U.S. We're dealing with federal law, and under federal U.S. law, there is no recognition of any of the various partnerships/unions/etc. put into place by municipalities and a couple of states.
So, as the law stands now in the States, [my partner's] only option to live in the States is to get a work permit through an employer. This is extremely difficult (and has gotten more so in recent years) and very costly to the employer. She's a public school teacher. The public schools are not interested in forking over thousands of dollars to get work permits for foreigners -- even for shortage areas (she teaches special ed). We tried that; the schools wouldn't do it. We talked to lawyers, and their answer was always the same -- you're stuffed.
By contrast, UK immigration law permits same-sex partners to sponsor their partners for a visa that allows the foreign partner to live and work in the UK. In addition, the UK has FEDERALLY recognized civil partnerships that allow same-sex couples the exact same legal rights as married couples.
So, with US law as it is and her employer unwilling to get her a work permit, that left us the choice of either living apart, on separate continents -- which we did for nearly two years -- or living here, where she has the right to sponsor me to immigrate.
So, I live here. And in about 10 months, I'll be eligible for permanent residency. And a year after that, I'll be eligible for British citizenship. And we'll be here until the situation changes in the States.
There are literally thousands of other bi-national couples in our position in the States. (My brother is one of them; that's why he and his British partner live here, too.) This issue tears families apart and causes untold amounts of heartache. If you want more information, see the Human Rights Campaign website. www.hrc.org.
I donate the HRC from here, and I vote. But until [my partner] is legally able to live and work in the US, it's just not an option for me to stay in the States and fight the system there. So, in the meantime, I would ask YOU to write your elected officials to support the Uniting American Families Act. I hope that clarifies this for you.
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