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Posts Tagged ‘gay immigration’

23rd December 2010

Those who frequently read this web log may have noticed that this author occasionally comments upon the progress of American gaming legislation as recent legislative enactments have greatly altered the online gaming landscape. Although this issue would not seem similar to that of LGBT rights at first blush, there are some commonalities from a legal perspective which were recently noted in an article written by April Gardner for the website casinogamblingweb.com. To quote directly from this article:

US lawmakers took the first step on Saturday towards giving all Americans the same rights and freedoms when the Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Online poker players are hoping this was the first step towards full freedom, and that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act repeal may be next.

The repeal of the policy referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was a significant achievement for proponents of LGBT rights. That said, as noted in a previous posting on this blog, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still continues to act as a barrier to equal immigration rights for same sex bi-national couples as well as LGBT bi-national couples. At one point, it was thought that the Defense of Marriage Act’s provisions might be circumvented in the context of US Immigration through enactment of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), but, alas, this legislation has yet to be enacted. Therefore, there are those who argue that there is still a long way to go in the fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. That said, the article went on to note:

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law is one that Democrats have been pushing hard to repeal for several years. Another of those ill-advised laws on the radar for Liberals is the UIGEA. In recent weeks, Senator Harry Reid has proposed an online poker bill, but that legislation alone would not have overturned the UIGEA.

Although at first glance the UIGEA (the Unlawful  Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would seem to be dissimilar in nature. In fact, these two issues touch upon a very significant issue which seems to be continuously debated in the United States. This issue transcends party ideology: personal freedom. The ability to freely, peaceably, and consensually associate with whomever one chooses is a fundamental right enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many would argue that the law forbidding same sex bi-national couples, even those lawfully married in one of the 5 US States which currently solemnize same sex unions, from obtaining the same immigration rights as different sex couples is self-evidently a violation of the right to equal protection under American law. In this same vein, there are many who argue that Americans should have the ability to choose to participate in online gaming so long as they are above the lawful age to engage in such activity in their jurisdiction and the gaming operation is regulated so as to ensure that games are fair and the gaming operator is solvent. That said, the author of the aforementioned article seems pessimistic about the short term future of legislation designed to regulate and thereby legitimize online gaming:

It is unlikely that online gambling prohibition will be discussed in the closing days of the lame-duck session. For online poker players, however, they can take comfort in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.

The repeal shows that everything is worth the wait, as millions of gay and lesbians exhibited Saturday through tears of joy. It may take a little longer, but those tears of joy will eventually come for the millions of online gamblers in this country as well.

Truly, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was a monumental step forward for advocates of Equal Rights, but the issue of online gaming remains both controversial and complicated in the USA as many different jurisdictional issues arise especially in the context of the internet and World Wide Web. Therefore, it remains to be seen what the US Congress will ultimately decide to do with regard to online gaming, but hopefully the eventual outcome will result in positive benefits for players, operators, and the United States economy as this sector could prove to be an area of job growth for the USA in the coming years.

For related information please see: Online Gaming Law or Same Sex Marriage Visa.

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7th August 2010

This blog frequently discusses topics related to LGBT rights and United States Immigration. At the time of this writing, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) creates a legal bar upon immigration rights for same sex couples as opposed to different-sex couples who may receive US Immigration benefits based upon a marital relations ship (US Marriage Visa) or an intended marital union in the United States (Fiance Visa). In recent months, there have been many developments which are leading many to believe that a repeal of DOMA will likely come soon. In a recent posting on the Immigration Equality blog that author noted a recent California Court decision which upheld same sex couples’ right to marry in the State of California:

In another great victory for LGBT people, Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled today that California’s ban on same sex marriages violates the federal constitution.

“Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”

These are strong words coming from a federal judge and another clear sign that history is on our side. There is no question that this case will be appealed, first to the 9th Circuit, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the decision will be stayed in the interim. This means that even though Judge Vaughn has found that our Constitutional rights have been violated, his decision will no into effect unless and until it is upheld by a higher court.

Because this is a first step in a longer legal battle, there will be no direct benefit to binational couples for now. We’re still reading and digesting the decision and will blog again shortly about its implications. For now, let’s take a moment to celebrate.

In a recent Massachusetts Federal Court decision a Judge held that the Federal government’s failure to recognize a duly formalized same sex marriage in Massachusetts was unconstitutional. However, there will not likely be any practical effect of this decision in the near term as that Judge placed a stay on his Judgment pending appeal. As the above quote noted, there will likely be a stay on this decision, at least for immigration purposes, until a higher court decides the outcome of the case on appeal. That said, the following is quoted from a recent press release from UPI:

“SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 6 (UPI) — Same-sex marriage backers filed court motions Friday urging a judge to allow such marriages in California immediately while his ruling in the case is appealed.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker has said he would issue a ruling on the matter after he reviews written arguments submitted by proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown submitted arguments urging the judge to authorize same-sex marriages during the appeal process. Schwarzenegger noted the state performed about 18,000 same-sex marriages before the practice was banned with the November 2008 voter approval of Proposition 8.

“Government officials can resume issuing such licenses without administrative delay or difficulty,” the governor’s office said in its submission to the court.

Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor in the November election, argued in writing there is “the potential for limited administrative burdens should future marriages of same-sex couples be later declared invalid” but he said “these potential burdens are outweighed” by the constitutional rights Walker spoke of in his ruling that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

Lawyers for Proposition 8 backers argued same-sex marriages performed in California before the case is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court would be at risk of instability.”

Although the recent decision may not have an immediate direct impact on LGBT Immigration rights, if the Judge grants same sex couples the right to marry in California while the case is pending appeal it would provide a large number of couples with an opportunity to solemnize a marital relationship.

How this issue will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen. However, this issue is quickly becoming a major focal point for interpretation of legal doctrines such as Federalism, States’ Rights, and Substantive Due Process. Ultimately, all of the issues associated with same sex marriage and Same Sex Visa Benefits may need to be adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court.

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3rd April 2010

As frequent readers of this blog may be aware, two of the most hotly debated issues in the realm of United States Immigration are: Comprehensive Immigration Reform and US Family Immigration benefits for LGBT bi-national couples. A seemingly unrelated issue is that of the upcoming United States Census. Recently, the LGBT immigration blog Immigration Equality.org discussed how the US Census and the issues of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and LGBT Visas are connected:

“Research conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) shows an excellent reason for undocumented immigrants to participate in the census: They can actually use the completed census form as proof of continuous physical presence in the U.S., should Congress enact a path to citizenship, with requires such proof for residency, in the future. Additionally, certified copies of completed census forms can be used as evidence of continuous presence in the U.S. under certain current laws as well. These include the amnesty program under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA); amelioration provisions of the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000; and for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) (for when one cannot return due to war, natural disasters etc.) under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 244…There are undocumented immigrants living in the US in same-sex binational relationships as well, and they should be counted, too. A recent Immigration Equality client, living here with his American partner for nearly 20 years, was detained upon trying to re-enter the United States after going home to visit his dying mother. By participating in the confidential census process, couples like these can be “counted,” and give voice, through their numbers, to the very real plight of binational couples who have, for too long, remain too hidden in the shadows.”

As explained above, proof of having participated in a US Census can be used as evidence to show one’s continuous residence in the United States of America. Therefore, participating in the Census can be a beneficial endeavor for certain individuals.

It is interesting to note how the issue of undocumented aliens intersects with the issue of LGBT Immigration rights as these two groups would otherwise seem to have interests that are unrelated, but at this time same sex bi-national and undocumented aliens are in legally precarious position. In this author’s opinion, Comprehensive Immigration Reform could be the solution to both of these groups’ problems, but this author believes that it is more likely that the US Courts will deal with the issue of same sex immigration when they adjudicate the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the outcome with regard to all of these issues remains to be seen.

For information about US Immigration from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

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22nd March 2010

The authors of this blog keep a close eye upon pending legislation in both the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America. Vigilance must be maintained in order to be fully aware of all of the current Immigration policies, procedures, rules, regulations, and laws in both countries. This blog has repeatedly reported on issues involving same-sex couples seeking United States Immigration benefits as this poses one of the most politically pressing and legally confusing issues of United States Immigration at this time.

Currently, the United States Congress is debating legislation that would attempt to tackle some of the major problems in the area of US Immigration. Recently a bill was introduced that would reform current American Immigration law with regard to refugees. Some feel that an even more pressing piece of legislation is that which would provide comprehensive immigration reform in the USA.

Same Sex Immigration issues have been dealt with in separate proposed legislation called the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), but there are those who hope that a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill will eventually include immigration benefits for same sex couples. A very popular website and blog, Immigration Equality.org, has been posting updates regarding the situation in Washington D.C. where marchers will be falling upon the US Capital to demand Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation. Most notable, is the fact that among the marchers LGBT rights activists are campaigning for equal rights in the US immigration process. To quote Immigration Equality’s blog directly:

“In the midst of the tens of thousands rallying for reform, a contingent of 300 to 500 people will on hand, with rainbow flags in hand, to bring attention to the struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants and their families. And before they set their first foot on the grassy lawn off Constitution Avenue, their presence is already being felt and making change.”

The blog added a personal touch to its report of this demonstration:

“[Laurie] Larson will be marching with the Immigration Equality contingent in honor of her close friend Steve – an American citizen – whose partner of nearly a decade, Joe, was recently forced to leave the country after losing his job and, by extension, his work visa, too. Had Steve been in a heterosexual relationship, he could have married his partner and they would have qualified for residency. But because Steve and Joe are both male, that option doesn’t exist for them. Under current U.S. immigration law, Steve cannot sponsor Joe for residency simply because they are gay.”

The idea that an American Citizen, who could legally marry a foreign national of the same sex in some US jurisdictions, cannot obtain a US family based visa for their same sex loved one definitely smacks of inequality where the same American could petition for visa benefits for their loved one if the loved one was of a different sex. That being said, these issues have yet to be played out and there are some who believe that the issues of same sex family based immigration will likely be dealt with in the US Courts as the Defense of Marriage Act‘s (DOMA) constitutionality is currently being challenged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

For information on US Immigration in general please see: US Visa Thailand.

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11th November 2009

There are many people throughout the United States who seem more and more unhappy with the current state of gay rights issues. This unhappiness seems particularly acute when discussing the issue of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). Under current United States Federal law same sex marriages are not recognized by the Federal Government. Therefore, United States Immigration benefits based upon marriage cannot be extended to the same-sex partners of US citizens as same sex marriage is not recognized as a “marriage” for purposes of US Immigration.

Many have advocated either the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or the enactment of some federal legislation which would allow for same sex immigration benefits notwithstanding DOMA. A recent example of the latter is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would provide US Immigration benefits to “permanent partners” of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. Most efforts to provide same sex immigration benefits have been in vain which has created frustration in the LGBT community as well as amongst advocates for civil rights.

In recent months there has been talk of repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the US military. Also, the US State Department has issued internal rules granting Immigration benefits, in the form of diplomatic and official passports, to the same sex partners of State Department employees working abroad. Many feel that these are “half measures,” simply designed to placate advocates for LGBT rights.  The following, quoted from this source, sums up the feeling of consternation:

Noticeably absent from this civil rights agenda is the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Apparently a Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic super-majority in the Senate, and a Democratic president in the White House isn’t quite enough to get a repeal passed. Of course, other major issues are confronting the nation, and issues dealing with same-sex marriage often bring with them volatile politics. But, with the prospect of trimmed Democratic majorities in Congress after the 2010 midterm elections, is it really unreasonable for the LGBT community to expect action on DOMA now, as opposed to potentially a decade from now, maybe later? [Emphasis in original]

As can be seen from the above quote, the real issue for many is the repeal of DOMA. This legislation lies at the heart of most legal restrictions placed upon same-sex couples in the United States. Currently, the legality of DOMA is also being weighed in the US Federal Courts, but the outcome is far from certain. The repeal of DOMA is likely to remain a controversial issue in the future. A repeal of these restrictions will likely mark a watershed moment for American Civil Liberties.


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20th July 2009

It would appear that although repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) may not be happening anytime during the current legislative session. For same sex partners of United States Citizens, there may be hope that United States Federal Immigration Law could be modified in order to allow for United States immigration benefits for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Trans-gender (LGBT) Couples.

Under the current laws on the books, embodied in the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Bi-national LGBT couples are precluded from obtaining immigration benefits based upon their relationship. Therefore, the same sex partner of an American Citizen cannot obtain United States Lawful Permanent Resident (Green card) status based upon their relationship in the same way that foreign spouse or fiance could. It would appear that this situation may soon change.

According to CBS News:

“[M]ore than 100 lawmakers in the House and about 20 in the Senate have signed onto bills that would add the United States to the 19 countries that already recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes.”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is currently being considered in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Many lawmakers are hoping to amend the currently pending bills with proposed amendments to correct the immigration injustice being perpetrated against bi-national same-sex couples. However, the proposed amendments to this legislation do not come without challengers, further from CBS News:

“The long-standing fight over the country’s estimated 36,000 same sex couples of two nationalities is a small but emotional part of the debate over immigration reform. But including same-sex couples in the mix could make it harder to pass an immigration overhaul. A key ally in past immigration fights, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it would not support a measure that has a same-sex provision.”

United States Representative Mike Honda is a supporter of the legislation aimed at ameliorating same-sex discrepancies in Immigration law. The so-called Re-Uniting American Families Act is similar to previous legislation known as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). In both proposals, an addition of the term “permanent partner,” will be made to the United States INA which will allow for a circumvention of the restrictions placed upon same sex couples under current federal law (DOMA).

President Obama has signaled his wish that some sort of US Immigration category be created that would allow same-sex couples to have benefits similar to different sex couples. There are questions among same-sex civil rights groups regarding just how much the President really supports their cause as the outcome of the same-sex immigration debate remains in doubt.

(This post is not legal advice. Contact a Licensed professional for legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is created between the writer and any reader of this article.)

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4th June 2009

On June 3rd the United States Senate held hearings on the Uniting American Families Act for the first time. This was a historic event because it marked the first time in history that the Senate held hearing regarding Same-Sex Family Immigration matters.

For those unfamiliar with the UAFA, it is a bill that would add the term “Permanent Partner” to the list of those eligible for US Immigration benefits based upon a family relationship. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the Federal government only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. The UAFA creates a new category of family member, namely: Permanent Partners.

A note of importance, the President of AILA , The American Immigration Lawyers Association, submitted a statement to the committee supporting the enactment of the Uniting of American Families Act. An interesting quote from the statement:

“[S]ame sex partners of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are not recognized as family members under current immigration law, no matter how long-term or committed the relationship. This outdated and biased definition forces U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to make unconscionable, life-altering decisions to either relocate to a foreign country or permanently separate from their loved ones.”

The hearing was punctuated by the heart wrenching story of an immigrant partner who was taken away by US Immigration officers and deported in full view of her partner and family members in the USA.  The witness said on the record, “I was put into a van with two men in yellow jump suits and chains and searched like a criminal, in a way I have only seen in movies.”

On a related topic, the American State Department recently changed internal rules in order to allow same-sex partners of State Department employees the same rights as different sex couples. US Secretary of State was quoted as saying such rule changes were the “right thing to do.”

Current Immigration law still does not allow American Immigration benefits for same sex loved ones of American Citizens, but the above changes in guidelines and proposed enactments would greatly equalize immigration law to the benefit of same sex couples. It should be noted that this proposed legislation would have no effect on the Defense of Marriage Act, nor would it have any effect with regard to gay marriage. Instead, it would grant immigration benefits to persons previously not qualified to receive them.

(Nothing contained herein is to be construed as legal advice. No lawyer/client relationship is created by reading this post)

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