Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Courts’

9th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some media outlets are noting the comparatively positive aspects of the economies which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to provide further insight to the reader it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com:

JAKARTA—Investors and companies should look to Southeast Asia as they seek shelter from the world-wide markets meltdown, said the secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Surin Pitsuwan noted that Southeast Asia is growing, it is nestled between India and China and it dealt with its own scary debt problems over a decade ago, making it an attractive alternative amid the global volatility triggered by concerns about how the U.S. and Europe will deal with their debt, as well as whether the U.S. economy will slide into recession again. “If they are looking for a safer haven, this is it,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “The Chinese and the Japanese that are worried will want to look around for better prospects for their investments and this is one of the hopeful regions…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this well written article by Eric Bellman in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the ASEAN region as a whole, and the component jurisdictions therein, have shown tremendous economic strength in recent months. Meanwhile, these jurisdictions are believed by some to have substantial economic potential in the future. There has been some discussion in recent weeks regarding the prospect of a possible ASEAN visa not unlike the Schengen system currently employed in Europe. Whether such a program will ultimately be implemented remains to be seen. In any case, there is certainly strong evidence to support the inference that the ASEAN jurisdictions will be increasingly important in a geopolitical and economic context moving forward.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality in the United States, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States appears to be refusing recognition of same sex marriages, even those legalized and/or solemnized in an American State jurisdiction. To provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of MSNBC at MSN.com:

For all those same-sex newlyweds in New York, Lawrence S. Jacobs has a message: Enjoy the Champagne and the honeymoon, but expect no gifts from the IRS. Jacobs, a lawyer in Washington, specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples — and in delivering the bad news that their unions aren’t legal in the eyes of the IRS, a policy that will cost them time and money during tax season.Same-sex couples in Washington, which last year legalized gay marriage, must fill out a federal return to make calculations required for their D.C. joint return. But then they must set that work aside and fill out separate federal returns because the IRS doesn’t regard their union as legal, Jacobs says. “You just spent decades getting your marriage recognized, and now the feds say, ‘No, you’re not,’” says Jacobs, who as a partner in a same-sex marriage has firsthand experience of the problem.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to view this story in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the issue of same sex marriage has been a “hot button” issue in recent months as Senate Judiciary hearings have recently been held to scrutinize the Constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in light of proposed replacement legislation in the form of the bill colloquially referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA). In an immigration context, the issue of federal recognition of same sex marriage is of substantial importance since agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and each and every US Embassy or US Consulate overseas is legally compelled to disregard a same sex marriage when adjudicating family visa matters pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, bi-national same sex couples cannot obtain a travel document such as a K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile, there is some hope that this current legal discrimination will be overcome as some US Courts have ruled that DOMA’s non-recognition, at least at the federal level, of State licensed same sex marriage is Un-Constitutional. Concurrently, the United States Bankruptcy Courts have begun allowing joint bankruptcies for same sex married couples.

It remains to be seen whether same sex couples will ever be accorded the same benefits as their different-sex counterparts in the eyes of American law, but the overall situation appears to be gradually improving.

For related information please see: Americans Resident Abroad.

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6th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that further support for the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) may be forthcoming from membership of the United States Senate. To quote directly from the official website of The Washington Independent, WashingtonIndependent.com:

Long a holdout in signing on to back the Respect for Marriage Act, Sen. Amy Klobuchar indicated this week she’ll sponsor the bill, which would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Klobuchar is the last Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to back the measure after Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin expressed his support in April. Fellow Democrat Al Franken was an original sponsor of the act…

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

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced a “Respect for Marriage Act” counterpart piece of legislation in the United States House of Representatives where there is some doubt as to the ultimate fate of the bill notwithstanding the fact that it supports fundamental notions connected to States’ Rights pursuant to the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Meanwhile, there is also a compelling argument that support for the RFMA as a replacement for the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is simultaneously supportive of notions related to Equal Protection and natural law. How all of these issues will ultimately be sorted out by US Courts and/or the American legislature remains to be seen, but following the debate generates a great deal of intriguing insight into the evolving nature of the United States Constitution.

Meanwhile, in news related to the jurisdictions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); it recently came to this blogger’s attention that some international media outlets have reported upon the Russian perspective of recent ASEAN meetings. In order to provide further particulars it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru:

The dialogue between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is actively developing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following a ministerial meeting in Indonesia. Experts cannot fully agree with this, saying that the sides have yet to completely activate their potential for both bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further from this insightful article.

Although this blog attempts to primarily focus upon issues pertaining to ASEAN from an American context the activities of any of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the ASEAN region is of compelling interest to those who follow geopolitics and economics with any degree of frequency. How negotiations regarding the future structure of ASEAN will play out is anyone’s guess. Concurrently, the confluence of economic forces at play in the ASEAN region could yield trade opportunities with the potential for future exponential growth in real terms. As a result, an understanding of the unique nature of ASEAN and her component jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) could provide real insight to those looking to conduct business in Southeast and Greater Asia.

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

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26th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that there may be a pending matter coming before the US Courts pertaining to same sex marriage in the sovereign State of New York. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Washington Blade, WashingtonBlade.com:

Before the ink had even dried on many of the first marriage licenses for same-sex couples in New York, the state Attorney General was busy filing a brief in one of the several cases against the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states where such marriages are legal, and preempts the Constitutional ‘Full Faith and Credit’ cause by allowing states to refuse to recognize some marriages performed in elsewhere. Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed an Amicus Curie brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the Windsor v. United States, a case brought against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of New York widow Edie Windsor. When her wife Thea passed away in 2009, Edie was forced to pay penalties most married couples don’t have to pay because her marriage was not recognized, though the two had shared a life together for over 44 years. [sic]

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click on the relevant hyperlinks above to read more from this always interesting website.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that issues pertaining to Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution are central to the issue of federal recognition of State licensed same sex marriages. This blogger has always felt that the issue of Full Faith and Credit in the context of same sex marriage will likely be adjudicated in the American Court system as there are those who would argue that the United States Congress does not have the political will to pass legislation to rectify the current discrimination imposed by the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). This argument is generally made notwithstanding the fact that legislators such a Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) which would alleviate immigration discrimination and provide “certainty” to State legalized and/or solemnized same sex marriages, respectively.

Congressional reluctance regarding the repeal of DOMA would seem to exist notwithstanding the fact that there is a fundamentally pro-States’ Rights element which augers in favor of DOMA repeal. States’ Rights arguments are often undertaken by those on the so-called “political right” in America politics. Meanwhile, there is a concurrent Civil Rights and Equal Protection argument which seems to operate in favor of DOMA repeal. Such arguments are often espoused by members of the so-called “political left” in American politics. How these issues will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen, but one this is certain: this situation makes for interesting political and legal theater.

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15th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States judicial system recently played host to a proceeding in which the issue of judicial recusal was discussed in the context of a recent case upholding the Constitutionality of same sex marriage in the sovereign State of California. To provide further insight into these developments it may be best to quote directly from the official website of the Associated Press, AP.org:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has a message for those trying to salvage California’s gay marriage ban: Sure, the judge who threw out the measure last year is in a long-term relationship with a man, but he could still be fair to them. Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Ware’s ruling Tuesday rejected arguments that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker would potentially benefit from declaring the ban unconstitutional…

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

For those unfamiliar with the current plight of the LGBT community in the United States it should be noted that the currently enforced provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) preclude same sex couples, including same sex bi-national couples, from acquiring the same legal and/or equitable benefits as their different sex counterparts. This issue arises in the context of American immigration in that same sex married couples, even those married in one of the sovereign American States which allow such unions, cannot obtain American visa benefits. Recently, legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda have introduced legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the Reuniting Families Act which are intended to rectify this discrimination to one degree or another. That stated, it is this blogger’s opinion that this issue may ultimately be resolved by the US Courts. With that in mind, the following was quoted directly from the aforementioned article:

In his 19-page decision – a response to the first attempt in the nation to disqualify a judge based on sexual orientation – Ware had a bigger message. Gay judges, he said, are just like minority and female jurists: They can be impartial, too, even in cases that might affect them. “We all have an equal stake in a case that challenges the constitutionality of a restriction on a fundamental right,” he wrote. “The single characteristic that Judge Walker shares with the plaintiffs, albeit one that might not have been shared with the majority of Californians, gave him no greater interest in a proper decision on the merits than would exist for any other judge or citizen…

This decision is significant for the LGBT community as it elucidates the notion that one’ sexual orientation is not necessarily a bar to impartial decision making. Although the decision in this case does not go to the heart of the struggle for LGBT equality, it does provide a glimmer of hope for LGBT couples that further positive developments may lie ahead.

For related information please see: Proposition 8 or Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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9th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Supreme Court of the sovereign State of New Jersey has handed down a decision which appears to differentiate between message boards and “mainstream” journalists. To cast further light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from Yahoo News at Yahoo.com:

TRENTON, N.J. – The New Jersey Supreme Court says people posting in online message boards don’t have the same protections for sources as mainstream journalists. The court ruled Tuesday that New Jersey’s shield law for journalists does not apply to such message boards…New Jersey’s highest court says online message boards are little more than forums for discussion and don’t fit the definition of news media as described by the law.

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this story in full to gain further context.

As the so-called “alternative media” or “new media” continues to thrive and grow it stands to reason that US Courts will be hearing cases which place something of a new spin upon long-held notions pertaining to journalism and the press. It is this blogger’s opinion that the above case is not the “last word” on this topic as it seems likely that further cases in the future could possibly speak to this issue as well. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own research to keep abreast of such matters.

Meanwhile, the United States Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was recently noted for his optimistic outlook for the ASEAN-American relationship, to quote directly from the official website of VIVA News, VIVANews.com:

I know you will agree that a peaceful, prosperous, and more integrated Southeast Asia is good for the world, the United States and for American business. As the United States’ fourth largest export market, ASEAN provides remarkable opportunity. Our presence and support now for this dynamic region of 580 million people will help ensure markets for U.S. goods and services for decades. We just concluded the 24th ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue last week—a gathering of more than 70 U.S. and ASEAN senior officials to discuss a range of issues. The message from the Dialogue is clear: The U.S.-ASEAN relationship is deepening and opportunities exist.

This blogger encourages readers to click on the relevant links above to read this in further detail.

Clearly, there are going to be further business opportunities in the jurisdictions (including the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia) which comprise ASEAN. As these opportunities arise it is hoped that America can maximize the beneficial aspects of such developments. If the readership of this blog is as uninformed as this blogger (and he must sheepishly admit that he was not aware of this recent  development), then it comes as a surprise that there is an American Ambassador to ASEAN. In order to explain further it may be best to quote from a more informed source. Namely: the official website of The Irrawaddy, Irrawaddy.com:

David Lee Carden, a former attorney who has been named the first US ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), will attend the Asean Summit in Indonesia next week…

The administration very strongly recommends that readers click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read that insightful article in full. To cast further light upon the appointment of a US Ambassador to ASEAN it may be best to quote directly from a posting dated April 26, 2011 from the official website of the US Mission to ASEAN:

In a ceremony today at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, H.E. David Lee Carden, the United States’ first resident Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, presented his credentials to ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan. Dr. Surin will transmit Ambassador Carden’s credentials to ASEAN foreign ministers via the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives in Jakarta.

To view the official homepage of the US Mission to ASEAN please click: HERE.

Clearly, America is committed to a strong ASEAN-American relationship as evidenced by the posting of an Ambassador. This development, in this blogger’s opinion, is not without good reason as ASEAN’s future economic potential is, well, rather staggering. This is especially true when considering the possible refractive benefits which could accrue to ASEAN from the potentially massive growth in the economies of, in, and around India and China. Hopefully, strong ASEAN-American relations will result in political and economic benefits for all concerned.

For related information please see: US Embassy Thailand.

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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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16th November 2010

In a previous posting on this blog, this author noted that Russian National Viktor Bout, suspected international arms dealer and supposedly one of the individuals who was an inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character in the film Lord of War, was facing extradition proceedings which could ultimately lead to charges being brought in a Court of competent jurisdiction in the United States of America. Furthermore, extradition of Mr. Bout means that he would be transferred to the care of American authorities in the lead up to his trial. To quote directly from the recently released Associated Press article on this topic:

The Thai government extradited accused Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout to the United States on Tuesday to face terrorism charges, rejecting heavy pressure from Moscow for him to be freed.

The Cabinet approved Bout’s extradition Tuesday after a long legal battle, and Police Col. Supisarn Bhakdinarinath said the 43-year-old Russian was put aboard a plane in Bangkok at about 1:30 p.m. (0630 GMT; 1:30 a.m. EST) in the custody of eight U.S. officials.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that the government sided with an earlier appeals court decision that Bout could be extradited.

The issue of Mr. Bout’s extradition has been a complex and politically charged one in recent months as Thai Courts have struggled with the case in an effort to come up with a fair ruling. Exacerbating the tension for Thai authorities are the authorities in Moscow and Washington DC: each vying to see Mr. Bout sent to either Russia or the USA, respectively. To quote further from the aforementioned AP article:

A Thai court in August of 2009 originally rejected Washington’s request for Bout’s extradition on terrorism-related charges. After that ruling was reversed by an appeals court in August this year, the U.S. moved to get him out quickly, sending a special plane to stand by.

However, just ahead of the appeals court ruling, the United States forwarded new money-laundering and wire fraud charges to Thailand in an attempt to keep Bout detained if the court ordered his release. But the move backfired by requiring a hearing on the new charges. Those were dismissed in early October.

Russia says Bout is an innocent businessman and wants him in Moscow. Experts say Bout has knowledge of Russia’s military and intelligence operations and that Moscow does not want him going on trial in the United States.

The outcome of this case remains to be seen as Mr. Bout will likely face trial in America. Therefore any mention of possible outcomes in the United States Court system would be an exercise in pure speculation. However, one could surmise that after the expense of substantial time and resources on the part of the United States government to see Mr. Bout extradited to the USA it is safe to assume that a prosecution of Mr. Bout will be conducted with alacrity.

Extradition of high profile international criminals is not common, but when it does occur, the USA tends to pursue prosecution rather quickly. An interesting analogy to Mr. Bout’s situation is the American apprehension of Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian quasi-dictator captured and prosecuted in the early 1990′s for crimes related to drug trafficking and racketeering. Although Mr. Bout was not a South American dictator, this author believes that the cases are similar as they show how the United States government can be very determined when trying to apprehend individuals engaged in the international trade of contraband.

For related information please see: criminal warrant.

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5th November 2010

As the recent mid-term elections dealt something of a blow to the Democrats in the United States Senate and a significant setback for said party in the United States House of Representatives many are pondering the future of legislation such as UAFA (Uniting American Families Act). Those unfamiliar with LGBT Immigration issues should note that under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex bi-national couples are not permitted equal access to US family visa benefits even in cases where the same sex couple has legally solemnized a marriage within a jurisdiction of the USA. Due to the fact that bi-national LGBT couples still cannot receive equal immigration rights compared to their different-sex counterparts many couples are left separated from their loved one(s), sometimes by great distances. Other websites are noticeably vocal about their opinions regarding the future of UAFA, the past strategies utilized by LGBT Immigration Rights activists, and the future tactics that may be employed in the quest to see bi-national same-sex couples receive the same immigration benefits as different-sex couples. To quote directly from the website lezgetreal.com:

The Uniting American Families Act was introduced into Congress during January of 2009, by Rep. Jerold Nadler, D, NY.  Since that time there have been more co-sponsors than any other LGBT equality legislation on record.  Yet instead of pursuing UAFA as a stand alone Bill – with the fervor and impetus provided by the June 03, 2009 hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rachel Tiven, of Immigration Equality turned its limited resources to Immigration Reform and has spent the past 18 months chasing Comprehensive Immigration Reform for the longest time when it did not even exist. Now we have been included in the Menendez Senate version – but so what? Who in heavens name imagines Immigration Reform with Amnesty in it passing through the new Congress? And it is way to complicated and far behind to get through during the lame duck. I assure you of that!

The aforementioned website is often quite vocal in its support for LGBT Immigration rights. It would seem that some feel as though UAFA should not necessarily be pursued within the context of a broader Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. This is likely due to the fact that Immigration reform remains a very controversial issue and some LGBT-rights advocates feel that pursuing a unilateral strategy of seeking equal equal rights for same-sex bi-national couples outside of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) would be more effective than trying to pass CIR with UAFA-like language included since CIR may not pass at all. Bearing this in mind the reader should note that the website ImmigrationEquality.org made a clarification regarding their overall strategy for securing equal rights for same sex bi-national couples:

Our philosophy has always been the same. We will pursue every available option for ending discrimination against our families. When we opened our Washington, D.C., office last year, we were clear: When it comes to passing UAFA, we mean business. Since then, our policy team has been working around the clock on a strategy that builds support for UAFA either as a stand-alone bill, or as part of comprehensive immigration reform. If Congress tackles comprehensive legislation – and it offers the first opportunity to win – we want to be part of that bill. And if the political reality becomes one that presents an opportunity to pass UAFA on its own, we want to be prepared to seize that opportunity as well.

It will be interesting to see what will happen to UAFA in the upcoming “lame duck” legislative session. There are some who would argue that a “lame duck” Democratic Congressional session is the perfect environment for pursuing UAFA as a stand alone piece of legislation since there are presumably still many supporters of such a policy on Capitol Hill who may have little to lose politically by supporting such legislation. As the future of UAFA has yet to be determined, but the plight of many same-sex bi-national couples remains untenable under the current circumstances.

It should also be noted that the US Congress is not the only forum in which this issue may ultimately be decided as the US Courts, and possibly the United States Supreme Court may be the body that ends up adjudicating this issue since the lower Courts’ hearing of cases challenging the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa or K1 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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