Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    Uncle Sam Wants You! (*But not your foreign same-sex partner or spouse)

    A good friend of mine spent winter break pining for her lover whom she met in Scotland during her semester abroad at St. Andrews. The distance would provide an ample source of conflict for even the most devoted of couples, but my friend not only has interpersonal relationship challenges working against her, but also her own government. She knows that even should they stay together and decide to make a long-term commitment, the road to living in the United States together has every chance of being a long prance down a dead-end street. Her lover is female, and same-sex unions are not recognized by U.S. immigration policy.

    In case you haven’t seen the episode of “Will & Grace” when Jack marries Karen’s housekeeper to get her a green card, here’s how U.S. immigration policy works: Heterosexual marriages are recognized and a “green card” or visa will be issued to a non-citizen who marries an U.S. citizen of the opposite sex. That spouse may now live and work indefinitely in the U.S.: though they still aren’t considered full citizens. Same-sex unions (such as marriages legalized in Massachusetts and civil unions) do not qualify for the same treatment because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law passed in 1996, which defines marriage as occurring between a man and a woman.

    This isn’t to say same-sex binational couples have no options. Here’s a compelling one: A non-citizen can use his or her same-sex relationship with a U.S. citizen as a basis to obtain a non-immigrant, or temporary, visa called a B-2 “cohabitating partner” visa. This was originally intended to support family members and close friends of U.S. citizens who wanted to visit the U.S., but has been expanded to include same-sex couples. So, great, right? Now you can bring your same-sex Venezuelan lover to America!

    Let’s work under the understanding that you don’t have oodles of money, and your Venezuelan lover would like to work in order to buy things like, you know, food. And shelter. Nope, sorry. The B-2 visa is for “pleasure” only; no working or legally earning money of any kind. Your situation becomes even more messed up when you decide to marry said lover in Massachusetts. The temporary visa is issued with the understanding that the non-citizen intends to stay only for a limited period of time. A marriage certificate from Massachusetts would prove that you directly contradicted the terms of the temporary visa, and if you try to apply for a permanent green card your same-sex marriage will not only have no effect on the application, it can actually be used as a reason to decline your application.

    Binational same-sex couples are not the only ones screwed by U.S. immigration policy: so are those who are HIV-positive and those with AIDS (they are categorically denied access to the country). This is a tragedy not only for the gay community but also for refugees from war-torn countries seeking asylum. There are 13 other countries that prohibit those with HIV from entering their borders: Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Qatar, South Korea, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. But that’s another discussion for another time.

    Immigration of all kinds is a hot topic in the nation, but this aspect of the issue gets very little press attention. It’s not clear to me why this is. Perhaps it is because it is a problem that affects only a portion of the gay community (according to the Census Bureau, there are 35,820 binational same-sex couples in the U.S. today). There are millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico: I can see the difference. But of those 35,820 couples, 16,000 of them are raising children. That’s 47 percent. These children are lucky to have two loving parents. Sending one of them away because our government deems the love between them less real than the love between heterosexual couples seems, well, ridiculous.

    I am beyond being disgusted at this point. I am simply bewildered and amazed that in this time, in this nation, such measures are still in place.

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    • D

      David ChesterAug 22, 2009 at 7:04 pm

      Emily,

      I have just stumbled upon your great article. I am in total agreement with you. I am deeply disturbed that this is the situation in the US and I cannot understand why we are still living in the medieval ages. I see this article is a year old, but I am not finding a lot of information in relation to this topic and imagine everything you have stated is still quite relevant. Thank you for posting this. I am sharing this with my colleagues.

      Reply