You are browsing the archive for LGBTCIR.

The Happy Ending Has Yet to Be Written

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Helen and I met through a fan-based message board for a British television show. At the time I was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Helen was in Perth, Western Australia, neither of us knowing that the other existed. Through the message board, Helen and I started e-mailing. At first our e-mail conversations were very polite with the usual “What’s your favorite movie?” and “What do you do for a living?” but then it quickly grew into so much more.

Helen and partner

"The stress of having Helen on a work visa here in the States is constant."

After a few weeks of e-mails Helen gathered up the courage to call me (her words, not mine) and from the first “hello” our lives were forever changed. After months of long-distance telephone calls we finally planned to meet in Sydney, Australia.

Our meeting in Sydney was the most amazing experience, it was exciting and comfortable, it was like we had known each other for years, yet there was still that feeling of meeting someone new. After our time together in Sydney Helen came to the U.S. for two weeks and after that visit knew her life was here with me in America. Although it would be hard for her to leave Australia, she flew back and made the arrangements to move to the US.

At that time we had no idea how hard it was going to be getting employment, arranging visas, selling Helen’s home and so forth.

It took us 12 months, a lot of money and a lot of stress to finally get it all sorted. The only thing that kept us both going was the fact that we were in love and that we had each other.

Nothing else mattered.

Helen and I married in a Civil Partnership ceremony in London, England on August 8, 2008. The reasons for choosing London were because of our connection to the British television show that brought us together and also because Civil Partnerships are legal in England and we wanted to be recognized as a married couple. This day was the best day of our lives and every day since has been even more amazing – although we were about to discover how hard it is for a same-sex binational couplet o stay together in America.

Helen had to find a company that would sponsor her so she could stay in the U.S. on a work visa. We investigated student visas, but although my income may have been enough to sustain us, it was not enough to sustain us both and pay for her schooling.

Australia has an E-3 visa, the first visa is good for 3 years, but then you need to have it renewed every two years.

Helen was able to obtain employment from a company willing to go through all the paperwork and expense involved in sponsoring an employee. Her first 3-year visa was approved without any problems, but 3 years goes by quickly and before we knew it, it was renewal time.

Read the rest of this entry →

Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) for Same-Sex Binationals Introduced in Congress

12:00 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Bill with Bipartisan Support Would Give Gay and Lesbian Americans with Foreign Spouses Equal Immigration Rights

Media Contact: Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 415-742-1626, amos@out4immigration.org

SAN FRANCISCO – FEBRUARY 5, 2013 – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign partners equal immigration rights, was introduced today in the 113th Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

This is the seventh consecutive Congress in which Nadler has introduced this legislation, which typically garners support from Democrats, but never enough for the bill to come up for a vote. This time, however, the bill has two Republican cosponsors, and comes at a critical juncture with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) on the table.

“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws,” said Nadler, a long-time champion of same-sex binational couples and their families. While many of these couples are legally married or partnered, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars them from receiving federal rights, such as the ability of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card.

Nadler called this current state of excluding one class of people from equal treatment under the law “an outrage”. While the constitutionality of DOMA is currently in front of the Supreme Court, UAFA could neatly fit into immigration reform overhaul and solve a problem that affects about 40,000 couples – some of whom have been forced to leave the country or overstay a visa in order to avoid being forcibly separated by the U.S. government.

Inclusion in CIR, however, is not without controversy. While President Obama has said that same-sex binational couples fall under the category of family in his immigration reform proposal, current Senate framework omits same-sex binational couples. A Senate hearing on the matter is scheduled for February 13.

Some Republicans have clearly voiced opposition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators working on CIR legislation, called including same-sex binationals a “social issue” that should not be part of the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he would not tolerate Republicans looking for excuses like McCain’s to avoid supporting this legislation.

Reintroducing UAFA with bipartisan support bodes well for the House to support an inclusive CIR bill.

Said Nadler, “Any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”

Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer grassroots group that works with same-sex binational couples and their families to empower those affected by immigration discrimination to speak out, applauded today’s reintroduction of UAFA, its bipartisan support and the commitment of Rep. Nadler to see this bill become law.

“We hear every day from couples whose lives are torn apart because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriage or permanent partnership,” said Amos Lim, Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration. “Immigration reform cannot be considered ‘comprehensive’ unless all families are included. All families means just that all families – including those that are LGBT.”

# # #
______________
For more information:


Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org
Uniting American Families Act, LGBT Immigration Reform, Maintains Bipartisan Support in House: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/lgbt-immigration-reform_n_2623557.html
Reid Blasts GOP for Blaming Gays on Immigration Bill Resistance: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/02/03/watch-reid-blast-gop-blaming-gays-immigration-bill-resistance
Out4Immigration blog (featuring stories of same-sex binationals): http://out4immigration.blogspot.com/
United by Love, Divided by Law (visual protest by same-sex binational couples separated by U.S. immigration laws): http://unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com
Count Me In / Same-Sex Binationals Share Their Stories: http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn

end
____________
Out4Immigration is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current U.S. immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in this country. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org.

U.S. Citizen Turning 65 Appeals to Senator Dianne Feinstein for Help

12:19 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

In 2005, Karin and I met via an online dating site. I hadn’t had much luck with online dating before, but a friend convinced me to try one more time. I gave it my best shot — a long, thoughtful profile and several photos. One day, I saw that someone had clicked on my profile, but hadn’t sent me a message. I messaged her, which freaked her out a bit. But she decided that someone who had spent so much time on their profile deserved an answer, which led to a flurry of online messages.

Messages turned into phone calls, and our ignorance about U.S. law allowed us to develop a relationship without knowledge that the U.S. government would eventually stand in the way of our being together. At the time, we didn’t know how much — the bliss of ignorance about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a big factor in our early days. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the issue, though I have been actively working on LGBT civil rights since the 1970′s when I came out. Karin and I have learned that many, even in the LGBT community, don’t know about the problem that binational same-sex couples face when trying to be together. In fact, most binational same-sex couples learn about the DOMA discrimination challenge the hard way — in the trenches.

Karin was visiting from France and knew nothing about DOMA. She hadn’t intended to enter into a long-term relationship — but both of our lives have changed dramatically as a result of that fortuitous click on my profile. It was only as our connection and our relationship began to deepen that we discovered the horrible truth that American citizens are forced every day to make a choice between love or country, spouse or career. I don’t think any American citizen should have to face this choice!

Because I chose Karin, I had to take early retirement and months-long forays out of California so that we could stay together.

Read the rest of this entry →

Daughter of U.S. Army Veteran Calls on Congress for Help

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

The United States recently celebrated Thanksgiving and, while I am giving thanks for many things, one of my greatest sorrows during this holiday season is that my loving partner, Julie, was not with me to celebrate this greatest of American family holidays. Julie is my family – my chosen family. But our laws in the U.S. dictate that, even though we could legally marry in New York State, I am unable to sponsor her for immigration as my spouse.

It may seem rather cheesy to say we “met online” but, with technology as it is today, when a mutual friend introduced us to each other via email, we found we had a lot in common and became friends. We were email friends for two years before I met Julie in person during a business trip to Australia. And in that meeting, we confirmed that daily emails and weekly Skype visits had led us to more than simply friendship. We knew it would be hard – being a bi-national couple is hard on so many fronts – but being a same-sex couple, when neither of our countries recognized us as a couple, was a harsh reality that confronted us immediately.

I lived in Hong Kong at the time we met. When I retired in 2011, we were finally able to live together full time. We share homes in both Australia and the United States, but after a grilling at the Chicago airport earlier in 2012, we realized that Julie needed to be careful.

It’s been hard over the last several months. Both of my parents have had surgery, and I have become a primary supporter. Julie was trained as a nurse but, because we fear she might be barred at immigration, we decided that only I would come back to the U.S. to help them. My parents love and trust her, and it would benefit them for her
to be able to be here. I would also benefit from her support.

I’ll be honest. I’m one of the lucky ones. Australia changed its laws in 2009 by defining a “de facto” couple as two people (opposite- or same-gender) who have a genuine, exclusive relationship, but who are not married. Australia has granted me permanent residency as a “de facto” partner. Julie and I went through a process that would be analogous to the US process for sponsoring a spouse for immigration. We proved that our relationship was genuine through a 5-inch stack of paper detailing the mingling of our finances, our daily Skype logs, our email presence, sworn support letters from her family of origin and my business colleagues, police checks (three different countries for me!), and a medical exam. I was granted a two-year temporary residency visa that allowed me to enter and leave Australia at will. Last August, that temporary visa was replaced with a Permanent Resident visa – the equivalent of a U.S. Green Card. I can live, work and pay taxes in Australia. The Australian government recognizes me as part of a couple.

Friends have asked us, “Why don’t you just live in Australia?” We could do that. But we have lives in both countries, and we have family in both countries. We have elderly parents in both countries. We have homes in both countries. If Australia recognizes us, why can’t the United States? Why must we choose one country over the other? Why should I essentially have to live in exile to be with my partner full-time?

My U.S. citizenship is very important to me. I was not born in the U.S. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, as my father was serving in the United States Army in Germany when I was born. Even though I was born to U.S. citizens, I am not a “natural-born” US citizen. After all that my parents went through for our family and for our country, it’s very hard to be told that my relationship, my family, is not worthy to be in the United States.

The tide is turning in the United States. We celebrated with Maine, Washington and Maryland on Election Day as same-sex marriage was approved at the ballot box. We watch with fingers crossed as the Supreme Court of the United States decides whether to rule on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA on November 30th. We pray for luck every May 1st when the results of the U.S. Diversity Lottery are announced.

For six years now, Julie and I have done everything we can to be together, even though U.S. laws keep us apart. We are both retired, and are watching our available funds for airline tickets dwindle. We watch the aging of our parents, and want to spend as much time with them as we can in their elder years.

We continue to hope. We continue to believe that we are human beings, with the same rights, the same dreams and the same feelings as our straight friends and family. We wish to have the pursuit of happiness in our own backyard!

We are America. We are Australia. We are a family.

Are you a same sex binational couple? Do you have families / friends affected by this issue? Please contact us at http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn if you are interested in sharing your story.

Peace Corps Volunteer Asks Congress to Pass Inclusive Immigration Reform

4:03 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

After Giving Two Years of His Life to the Peace Corps, Former Volunteer Wants to Spend Rest of His Life with Ecuadorian Partner

Ever since I was a kid, the holidays were a blur of good food, family, and friends. Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas were always reminders to be thankful for what we had and share with those we love. This year, Raul and I have much for which to be grateful. For the first time since 2009, we will be sharing Christmas together. After more than a year of living in different countries, we now live under the same roof, sharing the same meals, and making friends in a new city and country—the United Kingdom, our new home.

Brad&Raul

Raul and I first met during my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Southern Ecuador. I was working as a social worker in a rural highland community. I still remember getting that first flirtatious text message, thinking “he’s surely exaggerating his positive qualities”. Fortunately, he wasn’t! Raul really is the sweet, caring, and handsome man he said he was. After some initial hesitation on my part, we started a relationship that continues to this day, nearly three years later. For the rest of my time in the Peace Corps, Raul and I were nearly inseparable. He would often visit me and my host family in the parish where I lived. We would travel Ecuador together on vacations, visiting friends and his family on the coast.

As my service experience drew to a close in mid-2010, we started to explore our options. We both wanted Raul to meet my family over the holidays as I’d had the chance to visit his on many occasions. Sadly, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa to the US was denied, in part because he did not have enough assets to convince the immigration officer of his return to Ecuador and in part because he was honest about our relationship during his interview. I still remember the day Raul called me with the bad news. He was devastated, and there was nothing I could do to comfort him that day. I promised I would save up and return to Ecuador if he could not see my family for the holidays.

I returned to Ecuador at the beginning of 2011 to work as a field consultant with a social enterprise initiative, earning just $200 per month. We also opened a small café/bar together in the hopes that it would improve his chances of eventually visiting my family in the US. During the next 8 months, the two of us worked hard at our day and night jobs. We were poor and tired, but at least we had each other. Acting on pro-bono advice from Lavi Soloway of the DOMA Project (www.domaproject.org) we prepared for Raul’s next visa application by securing invitations, bonds, and letters of support from family and government officials, including my Congressman at the time, Bruce Braley. We knew that chances were slim that Raul would be granted a visitor’s visa, but we had to try. My grandparents were going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and it was the perfect way to meet my extended family. On what I would describe as one of the happiest days of my life, Raul’s application for a visitor’s visa was granted. It was just short of a miracle.

Read the rest of this entry →

Texas Man Separated From Husband Over Holidays by U.S. Law

5:11 pm in Uncategorized by Amos Lim

Texas Man Separated From Husband This Holiday Season Due to U.S. Law
Binational Same-Sex Couples to Congress: “Enact LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform!”

SAN ANTONIO, TX — As Americans across the country prepare Thanksgiving dishes and celebrate the holiday with family, some Americans are forced to observe the holiday alone — separated from their loved ones by U.S. law. Art, an American citizen, and Stuart, a citizen of the United Kingdom, are just one example of a couple struggling to stay together despite an unfair and unjust combination of U.S. marriage and immigration laws.

For over 36,000 binational same-sex couples, holidays are times of sadness and loneliness, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are prohibited from sponsoring their same-sex partner for immigration purposes by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Despite the White House’s refusal to defend the law in court, Congressional Republicans have spent $1.5 million defending the law in 14 pending cases — hitting the spending limit set forth with the approval of the Committee on House Administration (link).

This holiday season, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration are publishing the stories of just a few of the thousands of couples directly impacted by this discriminatory law, and who could be immediately helped by passing an LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform bill. Recently, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have talked about introducing a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the new Congressional session — and tens of thousands of couples’ lives hang in the balance as those negotiations begin.

Below is the story of Art and Stuart, a couple united by love but divided by law:

Married But Separated – Art and Stuart

I am a music teacher in San Antonio, Texas, and have spent much of my life developing a mastery of the piano, the organ, and the voice.  I also love computers and online social networks, which is where I ultimately met my [now] husband, Stuart Metcalfe(-LeSieur).

Read the rest of this entry →