Gay Binational Couple Challenges the Obama Administration: End DOMA Exile, Let us Come Home for the Holidays
VIDEO: Gay Couple Challenges Hillary Clinton’s Pledge to Protect Human Rights of LGBT Persons Around the Globe
LGBT Organizations Call on Secretary Napolitano
to Bring Exiled Lesbian and Gay Couples Home
Thousands of Binational Lesbian and Gay Couples
Remain Exiled or Separated Due to DOMA
NEW YORK, NY — This holiday season, while millions of families across the country come together to celebrate, some Americans will once again watch from afar while living in exile. For binational couples —- lesbian and gay Americans with spouses or partners from other countries —- this holiday season is a reminder of the discriminatory U.S. law that tears families apart, and results in the forced exile of thousands of American citizens.
Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) lesbian and gay Americans cannot sponsor their partners or spouses for fiancé visas or green cards like all other Americans, and are instead forced to live apart from the person they love, or forced to expatriate themselves and live thousands of miles away from their families. The Obama administration has said that DOMA is unconstitutional and has refused to defend the law in federal court, yet it has failed to take action to protect LGBT Americans from its most devastating effect in the immigration context.
In an effort to bring national attention to the horrifying choice between love and country forced upon these binational gay and lesbian couples, LGBT organizations including GetEQUAL, Stop the Deportations, and Out4Immigration are calling on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to immediately reunite these couples with their families in the United States. The Obama administration could easily bring these couples home for the holidays by simply granting temporary “humanitarian parole” to the foreign spouses or partners of U.S. citizens, allowing them to enter the United States with that temporary status until a permanent solution can be achieved.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful and historic speech to the United Nations, calling on the international community to respect the human rights of all LGBT people, and instructing U.S. embassies across the globe to do everything in their power to assist all LGBT persons abroad. While the unprecedented, electrifying speech was watched around the world, LGBT Americans who have become refugees from their own country were hopeful that changes would come that would allow them to return home or bring their spouses or partners home for the holidays. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano now has the opportunity to fulfill the core promise of that speech for all LGBT Americans.
The video campaign features Jesse Goodman, an American citizen from New York, and Max, his partner of more than 10 years who is a citizen of Argentina. Jesse and Max are currently living in exile in London due to Jesse’s inability to sponsor Max for a green card because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Jesse has been forced to live thousands of miles from his parents and sister year after year, missing every holiday and family celebration. There are thousands of binational LGBT couples who are dealing with similar situations — forced to live in separate countries and see each other once or twice a year, or forced to find a home in another country that allows them to live together, that recognizes their relationship but leaves them far from the family they have left behind in the United States.
In a follow-up statement to the White House’s LGBT Pride Reception over the summer, the Obama Administration said that the President believes that “Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.” Lesbian and gay Americans across the globe rejoiced at this statement of support, but have not yet seen changes to laws or policies that would reunite lesbian and gay Americans with their families and provide a means for same-sex binational couples to be together in this country.
“Couples like Jesse and Max are forced to make the choice between love and country — to leave their extended families behind in order to stay together and preserve their relationship,” said Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations-The DOMA Project. “It’s a horrifying choice that no American should be forced to make —- and one that could be solved tomorrow if Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano chooses to take action. Exiled lesbian and gay binational couples have spent many holiday seasons away from their families and friends, only because of U.S. laws that discriminate against them and refuse to recognize their relationships. We urge the administration to put its words into action, to end this forced exile immediately so that these lesbian and gay Americans are able to celebrate the holidays reunited with their families.”
“Secretary Clinton’s speech to the U.N. was incredible — and the Obama Administration has an opportunity right now to give shape to those words by proving to the LGBT community that it values and supports our relationships,” said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. “We’ve heard a lot of nice words from this Administration — now it’s time to move beyond words to action, and to bring these couples home for the holidays.”
Background on Jesse and Max’s story can be found here.
Permission is granted to use all photos found at www.stopthedeportations.com, only if properly credited “courtesy Stop The Deportations”
IMMEDIATE RELEASE- DECEMBER 19, 2011
Jesse and Max, and other binational gay and lesbian couples involved in the “Home for the Holidays” campaign are available for comment.
Press Inquiries to attorney Lavi Soloway,
or Project Associate, Derek Tripp.
Founded in 2010, GetEQUAL is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, go to www.getequal.org, www.facebook.com/getequal, or www.twitter.com/getequal.
Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile – The DOMA Project is a campaign launched in October 2010 by a group of married binational couples working with attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, who are founders of Immigration Equality and partners in the law firm Masliah & Soloway. The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of the cruel impact of the “Defense of Marriage Act” on married gay and lesbian binational couples and bring an end to that discrimination.
Out4Immigration is a volunteer grassroots organization that addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV+ people and their families through education, outreach, advocacy and the maintenance of a resource and support network.