Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Gay Rights’

10th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security‘s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is apparently compelling an Australian man, who is currently a partner in a same sex marriage with an American Citizen, to depart the USA. In order to provide further clarity on this situation it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the San Fransisco Chronicle, SFGate.com:

Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration denied immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco and ordered the expulsion of a man who is the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted spouse. Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk’s application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples. The decision was issued July 26. Immigration Equality, a gay-rights group that is working with the couple, received the notice Friday and made it public Monday. Makk was ordered to depart the United States by Aug. 25. Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who has severe health problems…

The administration of this web log encourages interested readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further details from this interesting story.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) preclude the federal government from recognizing a same sex marriage for purposes of distributing federal benefits. Therefore, same sex bi-national couples cannot acquire the same travel documents and visa benefits (such as the K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa) as a different-sex couple notwithstanding the fact that the couple may be legally married in one of the State jurisdictions which legalize and/or solemnize such unions. It should be noted that legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or the Respect for Marriage Act would rectify this situation to one degree or another. As of the time of this writing it remains to be seen whether this legislation will ultimately see enactment.

Meanwhile, in news of further interest to those who follow immigration matters; it recently came to this blogger’s attention that DHS has issued an announcement regarding a nationwide program to be administered by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE, sometimes colloquially referred to as ICE). To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Washington Times, WashingtonTimes.com:

The District could be forced to participate in an immigration-enforcement program now that the federal government has issued a letter to states that voided their participation agreements and emphasized the program’s mandatory nature. The Department of Homeland Security sent the letter last week to governors of 39 states, including Maryland and Virginia, after three states expressed interest in opting out of their contracts with the federal Secure Communities program. The program allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to access fingerprints collected by state and local law enforcement and shared with the FBI. It was started in 2008 and has helped ICE identify and deport more than 86,000 convicted criminal aliens. “This is to avoid any further confusion,” ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas said Monday. “We’ve made it clear. There’s no opting out.” DHS voided the agreements to clarify that they essentially served no purpose, and that states are required to remain in the program. Federal officials no longer will seek agreement with newly enrolled states and jurisdictions, and will simply notify them when they plan to implement the program…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Matters pertaining to immigration can be difficult to understand especially in the context of the United States Constitution since many of the immigration-related powers of the American Legislature and Executive are plenary in nature. How such powers interact with States’ Rights can be difficult to ascertain as the legal principles involved can be quite subtle. In any case, the ultimate resolution of this issue remains to be seen. Hopefully, a solution will present itself which will prove amenable for all concerned.

For information related to United States immigration from Thailand please see: Legal.

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25th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the sovereign State of New York has recently passed legislation which would permit same sex marriage in that jurisdiction. To provide further insight into these developments it may be prudent to quote directly from an Associated Press article written by Michael Gormley and posted to the Yahoo News section of Yahoo.com:

ALBANY, N.Y. – Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that was narrowly passed by state lawmakers Friday, handing activists a breakthrough victory in the state where the gay rights movement was born. New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed and the biggest by far. “We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognize our families and the battle will now go on in other states,” said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat. Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Governor Andrew Cuomo has also been on the vanguard of initiatives designed to provide some protection for America’s immigrant communities. As the former Attorney-General of New York he has executed policies to counter immigration scams perpetrated against immigrants in the State of New York. To provide further insight into these developments this blogger felt it prudent to quote another source regarding these events. To quote directly from an article written by Marcia Kramer and posted on the website of CBS New York at CBSLocal.com:

ALBANY (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gay marriage will soon become legal in New York state after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly voted in favor of the controversial bill on Friday night. Advocates are calling it a historic step as New York is now set to become the sixth but by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign the bill. Gay weddings could begin 30 days after that…

This blogger encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this insightful article in detail.

There is little doubt that these developments are very significant for the LGBT community, but the struggle for full equality is far from finished as these developments may be cold comfort to those same sex bi-national couples who currently cannot be reunited in the United States due to the American federal government’s continued enforcement of the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) a piece of legislation which forbids the United States federal government from granting any form of recognition to same sex marriages even when those marriages are duly solemnized and/or legalized in one of the sovereign American States which recognizes such marital unions. Currently, proposed legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Respect for Marriage Act and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, a proposed piece of legislation which would rectify the current application of DOMA in an immigration context); or Representative Mike Honda‘s Reuniting Families Act would attempt to rectify, to one degree or another, the current discrimination borne by the LGBT community.

More American States seem to be heeding the call of their citizenry and taking legislative action to provide support for America’s LGBT families. Hopefully all of these developments eventually lead to a broad based recognition of the individual natural rights of all Americans.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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23rd April 2011

Much to her credit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once declared:

“Gay rights are human rights.”

Although this blogger may not have personally agreed with every one of the opinions espoused by Mrs. Clinton over the years, he can at least state that she has been a zealous and effective advocate, where possible, for the rights of the LGBT community. However, this blogger might add that the statement quoted above could be construed as incomplete.  In order to elucidate why this statement may be incomplete this blogger would need to quote directly from a recent posting on the website Lez Get Real:

Sen. Al Franken is the newest co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last week that would give binational same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act is authored by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and is sponsored by 18 other Democrats. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, couples in which one partner is not a citizen do not have any right under current federal law.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced similar legislation in the United States House of Representatives. To continue by quoting an interesting question raised in the previously cited posting on Lez Get Real:

DOMA’s repeal will enable gays and lesbians – same-sex spouses – to sponsor foreign spouses for green cards so why do we need both bills before an unfriendly house at the same time?

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read the full story on the website cited above in order to gain further insight and perspective into this posting.

The question above raises a great many issues that are both complex and, at times, controversial; but go to the heart of the current struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans under the law of the United States of America.  Getting back to Mrs. Clinton’s remark: it is perhaps incomplete because it fails to take into consideration the rights of the Several States. The United States Constitution is composed of 50 co-equal sovereign States as well as a Federal government which has enumerated powers to perform certain functions while reserving the residual inalienable rights to the States and the People respectively. One of the rights which the States have always reserved unto themselves is the right to legalize and/or solemnize a marriage within their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding this fact, the United States Federal government decided to pass legislation referred to colloquially as The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). By doing so, they rode roughshod over the rights of the States to make decisions regarding the intra-State definition of marriage and how State sanctioned marriages between two people of the same sex would be treated by other States (including the Federal government which is a separate sovereign from the 50 States), but at that time this was not readily apparent due to the fact that States had yet to change the law regarding what constitutes a marriage.

To shed more light upon these issues it may be best to quote directly from an extremely insightful article on the subject of Full Faith and Credit by Justice Robert H. Jackson and posted on the website, RobertHJackson.org:

By other articles of the Constitution our forefathers created a political union among otherwise independent and sovereign states. By other provisions, too, they sought to integrate the economic life of the country. By the full faith and credit clause they sought to federalize the separate and independent state legal systems by the overriding principle of reciprocal recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. It was placed foremost among those measures(n69) which would guard the new political and economic union against the disintegrating influence of provincialism in jurisprudence, but without aggrandizement of federal power at the expense of the states.

To quote the Full Faith and Credit Clause directly:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Some have discussed the issue of Full Faith and Credit at length with this blogger and cite the quotation above noting that Congress does have the power to prescribe laws regarding the “Effect” of State legislation. This blogger would concur with such an assessment, but the current provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) do not merely regulate the Effect of duly solemnized and legalized same sex marriage in the States which allow such unions, but instead DOMA makes such legislation wholly INEFFECTIVE because that law simply refuses to recognize the validity of same sex unions. In this blogger’s opinion this is clearly violative of the U.S. Constitution as true Full Faith and Credit has not been accorded to same sex marriages legalized within those sovereign States.

In Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in the case of Youngstown Steel & Tube Co. v. Sawyer the following framework was created for analyzing executive action:

In determining whether the executive has authority, there are three general circumstances:

  1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, the President’s authority is at its greatest.
  2. When the President acts in the absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority. When this is the case, the test depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.
  3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, the authority of the President is at its lowest.

This blogger asks that readers click on the hyperlinks above to understand this case further.

To continue analyzing this issue: it is this blogger’s opinion that States’ Rights issues in connection with Full Faith and Credit could be analyzed in a similar manner to the first prong of the analysis used by Justice Jackson to adjudicate Presidential authority. When the Sovereign States act pursuant to an express or implied authorization of their legislatures or pursuant to the will of the People (ex. a State referendum), then shouldn’t the greatest amount of Full Faith and Credit be accorded to the laws created therefrom? Why does the Federal government get to override sovereign prerogatives clearly reserved to the States and the People, respectively? Clearly, from the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause Congress can make rules regarding the regulation of the Effect of such legislation on other States which do not have similar prerogatives, but, in this blogger’s opinion, the Federal government simply cannot unilaterally overrule, either preemptively or after the fact, State prerogatives simply by citing their power to regulate the Effect of such prerogatives.

To get back to the issue of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) vs. repeal of DOMA (either outright or through a statute similar to the Respect for Marriage Act). In this blogger’s opinion the reason that both of these bills are on the floor stems from the inherent tensions which arise as a result of the fact that the USA uses a federal system within her Constitution providing concurrent jurisdiction for 1 Federal government as well as 50 State sovereigns. Institutions within government, especially the US Federal government, are often loathe to give up power. By recognizing that refutation of marriages solemnized and legalized within sovereign State jurisdiction is outside of their bailiwick the Federal government could be construed to have conceded to a practical loss of authority on such issues (which this blogger believes that they do not have to begin with).

Concurrently, there are sound political reasons for having both bills out there on the floor of the Federal legislature. One, it provides a better chance of seeing at least some progress on this issue. If a DOMA repeal is not possible within this session, but passage of UAFA can occur, why not take it? At the very least passage of UAFA could lead to reunification of same sex bi-national couples who are geographically separated due to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, this blogger would argue that such a strategy is sound, but those within the LGBT should not lose sight of the ultimate goal: full equality under the law. IF UAFA can be secured along the way, all the better, but mere passage of that legislation should not be viewed as the end of the struggle.

To sum up, the issues associated with accordance of Full Faith and Credit to same sex marriages solemnized and legalized by a sovereign State with appropriate jurisdiction are myriad and few, if any, have been resolved, but they continue to be some of the most interesting issues to be currently debated in the realm of U.S. Constitutional law. In conclusion, although it is not debatable in this blogger’s mind that Gay Rights are Human Rights. Perhaps Gay Rights are States’ Rights as well?

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa.

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7th February 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that a State Judge in a Nebraska Court appears to have been unwilling to grant a divorce to a same-sex married couple on the grounds that the State of Nebraska does not recognize the existence of the underlying marriage. It would appear as though the parties in question were originally married in Vermont (a State which recognizes and solemnizes marriages between individuals of the same gender), but wished to have their marriage dissolved in Nebraska (a State which does not solemnize nor recognize same sex marriage). To quote directly from a posting on WCAX.com, a website dedicated to providing news pertaining to Vermont:

According to Judge Randall Rehmeier, the state can’t dissolve their marriage because gay marriage isn’t recognized by the Nebraska Constitution. That means their marriage doesn’t exist in the state’s eyes.

The administration of this blog highly recommends readers go to the website noted above to read the full posting. The Judge’s reasoning may go to the heart of the overall conundrum that arises from what some would consider to be the uncertain nature of the current legal status of same sex marriages in the United States. As noted previously on this blog, within the USA there are currently 5 sovereign American  States that recognize and perform same sex marriages. Meanwhile, there are many other States and jurisdictions which do not recognize such marital relationships. Furthermore, there are even some American States which have State constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage or defining marriage as exclusively to mean a marital union between two people of differing gender. Concurrently, the United States Federal Government does not recognize same sex marriages pursuant to the language of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). Under the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act the Federal government is legally barred from recognizing marriages between two people of the same gender. This is a significant issue in the area of United States Immigration law as same sex bi-national couples are unable to obtain the same family based visa benefits as different-sex bi-national couples, regardless of the fact that the couple may have been lawfully married in one of the American States which recognizes same sex marriage.

In the midst of all of these conflicting policies and laws there are currently cases pending in the United States Federal Courts which address the issues associated with same sex marriage and government recognition thereof. At the time of this writing, Federal District Courts in Massachusetts and California have ruled that Federal failure to recognize State sanctioned same sex marriage is unconstitutional. However, those decisions have been stayed pending appeal. Those appeals could very possibly go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

At the time of this writing, the issue of same sex marriage is far from settled, but one thing is clear: it is unlikely that a solution will be easy to find. It is this blogger’s opinion that the issues associated with same sex marriage touch most particularly upon legal notions inherent in the Constitutional doctrine of Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, analysis under the Full Faith and Credit Clause may not lead to uniform State acceptance of same sex marriage. In this blogger’s opinion, the Defense of Marriage Act was rendered unconstitutional the moment that a sovereign American State began recognizing and performing marriages for people of the same sex. This opinion is based upon the belief that the right to solemnize marriages between parties within the jurisdiction of a given State is a right reserved to said State under the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Under certain circumstances, States have cited their power to promote “public health and safety” as a basis for issuing marriage licenses.

In this blogger’s opinion, if a State has duly legalized a same sex marriage within their jurisdiction pursuant to the laws and procedures of said State, then the Federal government must recognize that marriage pursuant to what this blogger would describe as Vertical Full Faith and Credit (i.e. Federal recognition of certain State prerogatives regarding intrastate matters pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause). However, the law dealing with what this blogger would describe as Horizontal Full Faith and Credit (State to State recognition of State adjudicated matters) can be opaque especially with regard to issues which one state has deemed to be in violation of State public policy. If a sovereign American State has a Constitutional Amendment which specifically defines marriage as a marital union between a man and a woman, then there is a strong argument in favor of denying divorces to same sex couples within that State since it would violate State public policy to recognize the existence of the marriage in order to dissolve it.

As more and more same sex couples legalize marriages in the United States, it stands to reason that more such couples may one day seek divorce. The issues associated with Full Faith and Credit and LGBT rights have yet to be fully resolved, but it seems likely that this issue will remain controversial both from a political perspective as well as a legal perspective.

Those reading this posting should take note of the fact that there are myriad legal and political opinions on this subject and until such time as a binding decision is made in the US Courts or Federal legislature this issue will probably continue to remain unresolved.

For information about legislation designed to deal with the immigration restrictions placed upon same sex bi-national couples please see: Uniting American Families Act or UAFA.

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31st January 2011

The issue of Federal recognition of same sex marriage is one which remains stuck in this bloggers mind like a splinter. The issue is vexing because the United States Federal government has clearly usurped sovereign State prerogatives on the issue while simultaneously trampling upon individual civil rights to equal protection under the laws of the United States as well as the fundamental Constitutional right to freely and peaceably associate with whomever one wishes to associate with. That said, the issue is, in this blogger’s opinion, best analyzed pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the USA.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) currently prohibits the United States Federal government from recognizing a marriage or civil union between two individuals of the same sex. Most legal scholars approach the issue of same sex marriage and the preclusion of Federal recognition from a civil rights perspective. Although this blogger wholeheartedly agrees that LGBT rights issues do generally fall under the umbrella of civil liberties, the ramifications of DOMA upon the sovereign American States is the most unfortunate aspect of the current state of affairs.

To quote directly from Wikipedia.com:

In Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., marriages for same-sex couples are legal and currently performed.

This is important to note as there are American States which explicitly prohibit the recognition of marriages between two people of the the same sex. Conversely, as noted above, there are currently five (5) states which allow same sex marriage. This has lead to a situation in which there is little interstate uniformity regarding this issue. As their site puts things so succinctly it may be best to quote Wikipedia.com’s entry on this issue further:

There has been much speculation on the clause’s possible application to same-sex marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership laws and cases, as well as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Between 1996 and 2004, 39 states passed their own laws and constitutional amendments, sometimes called “mini DOMAs,” which define marriage as consisting solely of opposite-sex couples. Most of these “mini DOMAs” explicitly prohibit the state from honoring same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Conversely, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, either legislatively or by state supreme court judgment.

The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on how (if at all) these laws are affected by the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, in August 2007, a federal appeals court held that the clause did require Oklahoma to recognize adoptions by same-sex couples which were finalized in other states.[18]

If the Full Faith and Credit clause is given its traditional interpretation, it has no application to same-sex marriage, and the DOMA legislation is superfluous and even dangerous, as it may lead to a misconstruction of the Full Faith and Credit clause. If a state is required to recognize a same sex marriage, it will be pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause, as was the case with respect to interracial marriages.

The final paragraph of this citation is most notable to this blogger as it is the section in which he is in disagreement. To understand the reasoning behind this blogger’s disbelief in the assertions stated in this Wikipedia.com posting one must first read the actual text of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

It is virtually self-evident, in this author’s opinion, that the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause will compel broad recognition of same sex marriage in the USA. Rather than looking at the issue from a civil rights perspective (which requires lengthy analysis into what are, in this author’s opinion, superfluous issues such as personal or religious feeling regarding same sex marriage which have no place in a reasoned legal analysis of the issue) simply examine the plain language of the Clause itself. The clause explicitly states that Full Faith and Credit SHALL be given to the public RECORDS of every other State.

What does this mean from a practical perspective? To use a hypothetical: two people of the same sex go to the State of Iowa (a jurisdiction which, according to a citation above, both recognizes and solemnizes same sex marriage) and get married. To quote the official Iowa County, Iowa website:

Iowa Vital Records are official registrations of births, deaths and marriages. Certified copies of Vital Records can be obtained from a County Recorder’s office or the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Once an official record is made of a registered same sex marriage does not the Full Faith and Credit Clause operate to compel interstate recognition of such a record? One would think, but there are exceptions to this kind of broad application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause as States which have clear public policies in conflict with foreign State Judgments, Acts, or Records may be permitted to ignore such Judgments, Acts, or Records (foreign judgments always seem to be accorded more preference from an interstate enforcement standpoint).

InterState recognition of same sex marriage, or as this blogger prefers to refer to it: Horizontal Full Faith and Credit of same sex marriage; is not really the main thrust of this post as the more pressing concern for the purposes of this article is Federal recognition of same sex marriage notwithstanding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The interstate implications of some states fully recognizing same sex marriage while other states fail to recognize such unions are interesting topics, but the main issue of this posting is what this blogger refers to as Vertical Full Faith and Credit. Namely, Federal recognition of same sex marriage lawfully solemnized in a sovereign State. Since when was the United States Federal government able to pick and choose which State laws it was willing to recognize? To quote directly from USLegal.com:

The full faith and credit doctrine as applicable to the federal courts in recognizing the records and judicial proceedings of state courts is contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1738.  The full faith and credit rule pertains to recognition by state courts of the records and judicial proceedings of courts of sister States; this includes every court within the United States.  This provision also includes recognition of the records and proceedings of the courts of any territory or any country subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.  By this provision, the federal courts are also bound to give to the judgments of the state courts the same faith and credit that the courts of one State are bound to give to the judgments of the courts of their sister States…

Pursuant to a plain language analysis of the Constitution it is this author’s opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional as it requires the Federal government to disregard the Acts, Records, and Judgments creating same sex marital relationships within the jurisdiction of Sovereign States in direct violation of the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause itself. Although there is a Civil Rights perspective to this issue, the major point that should not be overlooked is that fact that the US Congress is attempting, through enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, to dictate to the States what shall constitute a valid marriage. In the past, legalization and solemnization of marriage was within the exclusive bailiwick of the State especially as such matters tend to pertain to public health and safety issues.

This has very large practical implications especially for same sex bi-national couples as the Federal government, pursuant to DOMA, cannot grant American family visa benefits to the same sex partner of a US Citizen (notwithstanding the fact that the couple may have solemnized a legally binding marriage within one of the sovereign American States that allows same sex marriages). Hopefully this injustice will be dealt with soon as it is unfortunate that the rights of the States and the people are being disregarded as a result of DOMA’s continued enforcement.

In recent months, efforts have been made to pass legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Bills such as this would mitigate some of the discrimination which is routinely deployed against same sex bi-national families as the language of the proposed bill (and that of those similar to it) would allow for the “permanent partners” of American Citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for US visa benefits in much the same manner as foreign fiancees and spouses of US Citizens and lawful permanent residents. This legislation, and that like it, is a good step in the right direction, but it does not address the myriad legal rights and privileges routinely deprived to same sex couples under the current Federal regime.

For related information please see: Same Sex Partner Visa.

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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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23rd July 2010

This blog routinely posts information regarding LGBT Immigration and announcements regarding the campaign for equal immigration rights for same-sex bi-national couples. In a recent blog posting on the Stonewall Democrats blog, it was announced that members of the United States House of Representatives are continuing to call for equal immigration rights for same-sex as well as different-sex couples. To quote directly from the blog:

Supporters of immigration and LGBT rights are renewing their calls on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year that includes protections for bi-national same-sex couples.
At a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill, several U.S. House members emphasized the importance of passing legislation to make the nation’s immigration laws more fair and enable LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States.
The strengthened call for passing comprehensive immigration reform comes as limited time remains in the legislative calendar for this Congress, raising questions about whether lawmakers will be able to address major legislation such as immigration reform this year.
Same-sex partners currently have no recourse under any portion of family law in the U.S. immigration code. The policy threatens to keep an estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples from remaining together in the United States.
Among those who spoke in favor of passing immigration reform inclusive of this language is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who sponsors the Uniting American Families Act, a standalone bill that would address the situation for LGBT families.
Nadler said passing immigration reform that includes protections for the LGBT community is “absolutely essential.”
“In particular, binational LGBT couples must be granted the right to sponsor their permanent partners for immigration, just as other committed and straight married couples can,” he said.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the sponsor of another UAFA-inclusive bill known as the Reuniting Familes Act, also addressed the importance of passing such legislation.
Honda said “ending discrimination” against bi-national same-sex couples is “in line with American values and is good for our economy.”
“We know that American workers who have family by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed with this essential social safety net,” he said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a pro-immigrant lawmaker, said passing inclusive legislation is politically viable.
“On a more political note, I am confident that we can pass immigration reform that includes the provisions of UAFA this year,” Gutierrez said, according to his prepared remarks. “Including UAFA makes the tent that much bigger and makes the coalition that much stronger.”
Late last year, Gutierrez introduced immigration legislation that was seen as a more liberal alternative to the working bill expected for introduction in Congress. Although his legislation at the time didn’t include UAFA-like language, he recently revealed his support for including bi-national LGBT families as part of immigration reform.
Other lawmakers who appeared at Thursday’s event to show their support for such legislation were Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker and proponent of immigration reform, as well as Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.).
Erwin de Leon, a gay D.C. resident and Blade contributor, also called for UAFA-inclusive legislation at the press conference.
He said passage of such a bill would help him obtain a green card to remain in the United States with his spouse, whom he married earlier this year in D.C.
“Thanks to vagaries of the U.S. immigration system, I still do not have my green card, even though I consider the United States my home, have lived here legally for several years and in my heart know that I am as American as my native-born cousins,” he said.
Along with lawmakers, a coalition of 37 organizations — including LGBT, immigration and faith-based groups — joined in the the chorus of voices calling on Congress to act on immigration reform.
Immigration Equality, one of the organizations working to pass UAFA, is a leading voice among these groups. Other LGBT groups in this coalition include the Family Equality Council, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign.
Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality’s executive director, said current law is taking LGBT families “and sending them into exile.”
“Together we will fight for immigration reform that protects all families,” she said. “We will organize, we will protest, we will demand that the Uniting American Families Act and the Reuniting Families Act be part of a just, humane and comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
Still, challenges remain in passing UAFA-inclusive legislation. Patrick Egan, a gay political science professor at New York University, said the chances of Congress passing reform inclusive of LGBT families are “pretty low.”
“It’s going to be very difficult to get the 60 votes together in the Senate to move the bill forward and they’re going to be reluctant to put anything in there that jeopardizes its passage,” Egan said. “And this, unfortunately, is one of those issues that can cause you to shed a few votes on the Republican side. And I would be very surprised if that would be in any bill that gets passed by the Senate and the House.”
Sean Theriault, a gay government professor at the University of Texas, Austin, said “there is no chance” that an immigration bill immigration reform will pass this year whether or not it includes UAFA-like language.
“The reason that Democratic leaders and the White House have begun talking about immigration is because it divides Republicans from Hispanics,” he said. “On that score alone, the bill very well may contain [this] language. It is easy to be in favor of wholesale reform when the chances of it passing our zilch.”
Still, Theriault said if Democrats had to start making concessions to pass immigration reform, he couldn’t imagine “they would sacrifice the entire bill for inclusive language.”
Capitol Hill observers expect the U.S. Senate to debate and vote on comprehensive immigration reform legislation before a bill is taken up in the U.S. House. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chair of the Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee, is expected to introduce the legislation in the Senate.
While the Senate bill has yet to be introduced, framework for the legislation made public earlier this year shows support for passing a bill inclusive of LGBT families.
In a brief interview with the Blade on Capitol Hill late last month, Schumer noted the UAFA language was in the framework for immigration reform legislation. Asked whether the provision would be in the bill upon introduction, Schumer replied, “I believe so.”
“I believe in it and I want to see it stay in,” Schumer said.
Asked when he would introduce the legislation, Schumer replied, “We have the proposal and we’re still trying to get some Republican support.”
Schumer said he’s talking to several Republican senators who would be original co-sponsors for the legislation, but declined to identify any lawmakers.
Although no U.S. senator attended Thursday’s press conference, Tiven said advocates wanted to emphasize the support of U.S. House members for UAFA-inclusive legislation.
“We wanted to show what the House is doing to match the Senate’s leadership on inclusive comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.
Julie Kruse, policy director for Immigration Equality, said her organization is planning additional events throughout the country to draw attention to passing UAFA-inclusive comprehensive immigration legislation.
She said cities in Florida, California, Texas, New York and Minnesota are potential places where these events would take place.

Supporters of immigration and LGBT rights are renewing their calls on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year that includes protections for bi-national same-sex couples.  At a press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill, several U.S. House members emphasized the importance of passing legislation to make the nation’s immigration laws more fair and enable LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States.  The strengthened call for passing comprehensive immigration reform comes as limited time remains in the legislative calendar for this Congress, raising questions about whether lawmakers will be able to address major legislation such as immigration reform this year.  Same-sex partners currently have no recourse under any portion of family law in the U.S. immigration code. The policy threatens to keep an estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples from remaining together in the United States.  Among those who spoke in favor of passing immigration reform inclusive of this language is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who sponsors the Uniting American Families Act, a standalone bill that would address the situation for LGBT families.  Nadler said passing immigration reform that includes protections for the LGBT community is “absolutely essential.”  “In particular, binational LGBT couples must be granted the right to sponsor their permanent partners for immigration, just as other committed and straight married couples can,” he said. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the sponsor of another UAFA-inclusive bill known as the Reuniting Familes Act, also addressed the importance of passing such legislation.  Honda said “ending discrimination” against bi-national same-sex couples is “in line with American values and is good for our economy.”

Frequent readers of the blog will recall the the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is considered to be a key piece of legislation for those Americans seeking immigration benefits for their same sex foreign partner.

It should be noted that many States in the USA have either promulgated legislation legalizing same sex marriage or creating civil unions for same sex partners. However, notwithstanding the fact that same sex marriages may be solemnized and recognized by a State, the Federal government, based upon legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), refuses to recognize these marriages for purposes of awarding immigration benefits. Therefore, as of the time of this writing, there is no “Same Sex Visa” accorded to LGBT bi-national couples. However, there are currently cases pending in the US Courts which may overturn this practice as many feel that this type of discrimination violates States’ Rights as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. However, the ultimate adjudication of these issues may have to be addressed by the United States Supreme Court if legislation is not promulgated which would grant equal immigration benefits to the same sex partner of a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident.

For further details about US visas for different-sex couples please see: K1 visa.

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24th March 2009

The Uniting of American Families Act (UAFA) is a bill currently in Congress that would amend the US Immigration and Nationality Act in an effort to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and the trans-gendered US Immigration legislation by allowing “permanent partners” of US Citizens and permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same way as conventional spouses of American citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud related to non-bona fide “permanent partnerships.”

The most important aspect of this legislation is the addition of the term “permanent partner,” to current Immigration law. Under the proposed legislation proving permanent partnership would be defined as someone who:

(A) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;
(B) is financially interdependent with that other individual;
(C) is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual;
(D) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act; and
(E) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.
...with liberty and justice for ALL

...with liberty and justice for ALL

In my opinion, these “permanent partner” visas will require a great deal more evidence to prove a relationship than a conventional marriage visa, but at the same time it could closely resemble the K1 Fiance Visa in that, the K1 is a visa not based upon a marriage but an underlying bona fide relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.  After the sweeping election of Democrats in November there is a better chance than ever that this legislation will pass, but in order to get this through it may still require pressure being brought to bear on local Congressmen and Senators. So if this is an issue for you or someone you know, then call your local representative and tell them to vote for the Uniting of American Families Act.

Should this legislation be passed it would be a major victory for the LGBT Immigration movement. For more information please visit the following sites:

Immigration Equality

UAFA on Wikipedia

LGBT Immigration Rights

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