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WaPo: Obama Admin Should Halt Binational Spousal Deportations

Ed. note: Scott Wooledge is a New York City based activist that blogs at Daily Kos and elsewhere under the handle Clarknt67 -Adam

By Scott Wooledge

PhotobucketToday the Washington Post weighs in on the dilemma of Bradford Wells and John Anthony Makk, calling it a illustration of the “profound injustices meted out by DOMA” in an editorial today. The Editorial Board’s opinion reads:

[Attorney General] Mr. Holder asked an immigration court to determine whether Mr. Dorman should be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law and thus entitled to stay in the country. Mr. Makk’s deportation should also be put on hold, as should those involving anyone in legally recognized same-sex relationships whose only infraction involves immigration status.

It is not easy to win a reprieve from deportation based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. All who make such a claim must not only show proof of their lawful relationship but also that removal would cause an “extraordinary and extremely unusual hardship.” But the law at least allows heterosexual individuals to make their cases; that opportunity should be extended to those in same-sex relationships also. Immigration agents enjoy broad discretion and should make it a priority to remove foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes — not those, like Mr. Makk, who are otherwise law-abiding, contributing members of society. Common sense and common decency will go a long way toward avoiding indignities, but true justice will not be achieved until DOMA is wiped from the books.

This is at least the second time the Washington Post has called on the administration to perform this action. Back in May 2011 WaPo, in an editorial implored the administration, “Don’t penalize undocumented gay immigrants in civil unions with U.S. citizens,” saying:


The attorney general has vacated the court decision and asked the Board of Immigration Appeals whether Mr. Dorman’s civil union makes him a “spouse” under New Jersey law and whether, absent DOMA, he would be considered a “spouse” under immigration law. Mr. Holder should erase any confusion by declaring a moratorium on removal of foreign nationals in state-recognized same-sex unions until federal courts determine DOMA’s constitutionality. He should ensure that the government is not focusing on breaking up otherwise law-abiding families.

If the administration were to heed the call of the Washington Post to deprioritize the expulsion of all non-citizens in same-sex marriages, it would reap benefits beyond Wells and Makk. Another couple, Sujey and Violeta Pando of Denver, Colorado, face a hearing this Friday that may determine the fate of their five year relationship.

Sujey and Violeta’s situation has received considerably less attention, but they face a more immediate threat of deportation than John Anthony Makk. A key hearing that may decide their fate is scheduled for Friday. There are only three days left to save Sujey and Violeta’s marriage. Their story after the fold.


15 Comments August 16, 2011

Sunday news roundup – marriage equality in Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Cuba

By Ana Beatriz Cholo

Here’s an international news round-up. Why not? It’s good to know what’s happening in other parts of the world and know that we’re not living in a vacuum. We have brothers and sisters around the globe fighting for the same issues we are.

  • Thousands of people marched for marriage equality in Dublin, Ireland, this weekend. The country’s Civil Partnership Act 2011 cements inequality in Irish society, activists say. Under the current law, if one parent in a same-sex marriage dies, the other parent has limited care rights for the child. Interestingly enough, a recent poll found that three-quarters of Irish people are in favor of gay marriage. Pleasantly surprised? I was.
  • Across the water in Scotland, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey reveals that in 2010 almost two-thirds of people (61%) support same-sex marriage, up from 41% in 2002. One politician, however, seems to be a bit conflicted. John Mason, a member of the Scottish Parliament, claims that he is not anti-gay and is “perfectly relaxed” about same-sex marriages. He is concerned, however, about pissing off church ministers who might have issues with gay people getting married. A messy court case might be in his country’s future, he thinks.
  • Hundreds of gay and lesbian activists, some dressed as Jesus Christ and the Pope, held rallies in cities across Australia on Saturday. LGBT supporters in Australia are trying to pressure the government to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2004, an amendment to the Marriage Act was passed which bans same-sex marriage. The protests were held ahead of the Australian Labor Party’s National Conference in December where gay marriage will be debated. Coincidentally, the debate over same-sex marriage is getting renewed attention thanks to a prominent lesbian cabinet member. Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong recently revealed that she and her partner are expecting a baby in December.
  • And then, of course, there’s Cuba’s first gay wedding. A transgender woman and gay man were married on Fidel Castro’s 85th birthday Saturday. According to news reports, the wedding was a gift to Castro and is aimed at advancing gay rights in Cuba.



61 Comments August 14, 2011

On Sesame Street, Bert and Ernie and the inevitability of marriage equality

By Ana Beatriz Cholo

When my oldest son was five years old, I sat him down to tell him that mommy was going to attend a wedding far away.

“Two men are getting married, honey,” I told him. “They love each other.”

He looked at me blankly so I continued.

“Sometimes men get married to men and women get married to women. And if they have kids they become daddies and daddies or mommies and mommies.”

I remember how he was so sweet and innocently accepting. Ah, those were the days. (He’s a surly teen now).  All he really cared about then was how long will mommy be gone? And, oh, can I go back to watching cartoons now?

What I explained to him that day was all part of a lesson I wanted to teach him at an early age – that people and families come in all types, shapes, sizes, and colors.

That’s why the recent debate regarding the unmarried status of Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street is interesting to me. While, of course, the bigoted parents out there are already wringing their hands over the possibility of their children being exposed to – horrors! – same-sex married puppets on a children’s show – we should be gentle with these parents. After all, they are in major denial of the inevitable.

I think columnist Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post has it right. Why not introduce a same-sex human couple to the show?

The inevitable is that someday in the future, but not soon enough, we, as a collective society, will not blink an eye when we come across a family that is comprised of two mommies or two daddies, with kids or without, living across the street from us or at the grocery store or at Disneyland. These families are already at all of these places.

Again, as a society, we eventually came around to accepting women being able to vote and work outside the home, Mexican children being able to sit next to their white peers in a classroom, African-Americans being allowed to drink from any water fountain they chose and interracial couples having the right to marry.

It’s a matter of time before marriage equality becomes reality for all Americans so why not introduce this idea now, in this much-loved children’s show that has so gracefully showed many of us how to talk to our kids about tolerance and acceptance of others?

Hey Sesame Street producers, are you listening?


75 Comments August 12, 2011

Long Beach Unity Rally – LGBT People as 1st Class Citizens

Hey Prop8TrialTrackers — please welcome Ana, Courage Campaign’s Communications Manager, to P8TT for her first post. Ana has been working to amplify efforts in the media to repeal DOMA and support SB48, among many other projects. She comes to us from the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press and Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Ana spoke at yesterday’s rally and penned this piece afterwards. For video of the rally, Towleroad has footage. -Adam

By Ana Beatriz Cholo

Last night, gay and straight allies attended a Unity Rally at a popular Long Beach park to denounce three recent attacks on five gay men.

The crimes, surprisingly, occurred in the Broadway Corridor of the city, a gay-friendly area where it’s typically safe for two men or women to walk down the street, holding hands or arms linked together.

Martin Sanchez and his friends were leaving a gay bar when a man who asked if they were gay approached them. When Sanchez answered in the affirmative, he ended up paying for his answer. Sanchez had a front tooth knocked out and five others cracked. He is in need of expensive dental work and the community has rallied to his cause with a fundraiser planned for tomorrow night.

A number of elected officials spoke eloquently about how hate has no place here, or anywhere, in fact. The rally was organized by the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Greater Long Beach and Dr. Robert Garcia, an openly gay Councilman in Long Beach.

Newly-elected Congresswoman Janice Hahn said hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism and that an injury to one is an injury to all. Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal said that all of us have a responsibility to call out that kid who’s a bully and nip it in the bud.

I agree. I’ve dealt with bullying as a child, and most recently, as a mother. When my daughter, now 18, was in middle school, she was bullied mercilessly. I’ll never forget her bravery for choosing to dress as she pleased and standing up to those who constantly taunted her, but I was also right there as her biggest advocate. A short time later, she came out as pansexual and yes, that made me proud.

Now, with a 3-year-old with autism, I wonder if more bullying is in store for me.

As for Long Beach, a city of about 500,000, we have the second-largest gay population in the state. The LGBT presence and foothold is strong here, and to the city’s credit, the police department and its Human Dignity Commission take an aggressive stance when it comes to hate crimes. As we’ve seen, however, that’s still not enough to keep all the hate out.

In early June, a lesbian couple with two teenagers became victims of a hate crime in Long Beach, but this incident did not make the news. It happened in the neighborhood of Bixby Knolls, an oasis among some of the grittier areas of North Long Beach. Many LGBT families live here and feel safe.

This couple woke up to the word “FAGS!!’ spray-painted on the sidewalk in front of their home in big letters. The couple called police and it was cleaned up quickly. I won’t pretend to speak for them but I have no doubt the scar from that hateful incident remains.

I didn’t expect to speak at the rally last night, but I ended up doing so. I started off by saying that the violence and hate against the LGBT community must stop – whether it’s happening in the classroom, right outside a gay bar or it’s just been written into the law.

I mentioned how we at the Courage Campaign are working diligently to bring marriage equality to all 50 states. That brought a lot of applause and cheers. Then I motioned to a lesbian couple wearing T-shirts that said “2ND CLASS CITIZEN.”

“They are not second-class citizens,” I said. Someone in the crowd quickly yelled out, “first-class citizens!”

Yes, the two women are first-class citizens who have been relegated to second-class status, through no fault of their own. Rather, it’s due to a powerful, conservative bloc in our country intent on diminishing and denying equal rights to others.

We need to be vigilant about the physical, obvious attacks and the more subtle ones, like the three Republican presidential nominees who signed an anti-gay marriage pledge from the National Organization for Marriage yesterday. If elected as president, they promise to take away our rights and establish a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.

Really? What about our kids who are dying at their own hands because they are suffering harassment from their classmates, teachers and churches? Do they not matter? What message are these candidates sending out to their followers? That it’s OK to disparage and mistreat the LGBT community because the Bible allegedly tells them so?

They may think they can get away with it because they’ve been getting away with it for so long. The mainstream media, unfortunately, often gives them a pass because in trying to create a balanced story they need the other side. You know, the Christian, moral, superior, straight viewpoint. I know this for a fact. I was a mainstream reporter.

Well, I think we should call their bluff and fight harder. As first-class citizens, we deserve better.

12 Comments August 5, 2011

Breaking: NY State Senate passes marriage equality 33 to 29!

By Adam Bink

Just now, the New York State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage! The vote was 33-29. Since the Assembly passed the bill, it will go to Gov. Cuomo’s desk, where he will enthusiastically sign it (and kudos for his hard work on this). The measure cannot be repealed at the ballot.

There are a lot of people to thank, but we at Courage will start with you. Just as we did on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, we focused on a core group of undecided Senators and called, called, called. Folks like AnonyGrl reported from the statehouse. Others shared new information for each Senator and the timeline. We tweeted at Sen. Greg Ball, we voted in the WBEN poll and called the station out on its poll questions, we asked our friends and family and colleagues to call. Courage members in New York State made call after call. Everyone here should be proud of themselves. This is what a movement — and a blog community — look like.

On a personal note, I cannot say how thankful I am, as a guy born and raised in Western New York. My mother in suburban Buffalo (who made many of her own phone calls, and organized her colleagues at work to help, too) often uses the Yiddish term nachas. That would probably be the right term — glowing pride, a feeling of warm satisfaction. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We’re going to take this momentum to other states and win in battlegrounds like Minnesota and Maryland. Please see the e-mail below for more on how we’re going to do that. If you support the work we’re doing together here at Prop8TrialTracker and elsewhere online, please consider chipping in to support our efforts by clicking here.


Courage Campaign

Dear Adam,

We did it: the NY State Senate just voted to legalize same-sex marriage! Gov. Cuomo is ready to sign the bill, which already passed the Assembly, and NY will become the largest state in the union to grant couples the equal rights they deserve.

You helped make this happen! In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign and New Yorkers United for Marriage, Courage members made call after call until we picked up the six votes we needed. Previously undecided Senators like Addabbo, Huntley and others publicly cited the number of calls they got from folks like you as a reason they supported equality. Now, we’ve got to keep this train moving.

Can you chip in right now to help us push for marri age equality in other battleground states like Minnesota and Maryland?

Here’s why this is important, Adam: we can use the success in New York as a tool to move residents and lawmakers in other states. At Courage, our Testimony project helps compelling stories go viral.

In Minnesota, where voters will face a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2012, we can use the story of a Buffalo, NY couple getting married after 52 years together to convince an undecided Duluth, MN voter. When we’re pushing Senators to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we can show them the stories of couples who get married from New York, but live in or move to another state, so they lose the rights from that marriage at the border.

Will you chip in so we can bring what worked in New York to other states?

This will help us beyond marriage. We can also change hearts and minds in states like Tennessee, where the governor just signed legislation banning any protections for LGBT people and where the Senate passed the odious “Don’t Say Gay” bill. We can show the rest of the country why they should stand on the right side of history. We’ll use your contribution to tell those stories through viral videos and ads in other states so we can speed up the day when all Americans, LGBT or straight, can finally be equal.

We’re ready to move on to the next state. Will you join us?

Thanks for everything you’re doing,

Adam Bink

Native Western New Yorker and Director of Online Programs, Courage Campaign

142 Comments June 24, 2011

Marriage Equality Is an Anchor for Full Social Equality

Please welcome Roland Palencia, incoming Executive Director for Equality California, for a guest post here on marriage equality and social equality in general. Roland has a long history of activism in LGBT and health care circles, working at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and currently at L.A. Care Health Plan. For more on his background and an interview, you can read P8TT friend Karen Ocamb’s interview with Roland immediately after he was hired.

As has been extensively discussed here, Equality California is holding a series of town halls on whether to go back to the ballot in 2012 to repeal Prop 8.

Roland starts on July 5th -Adam

By Roland Palencia

June 13, 2011 should be declared a national “Day of Shame,” as proponents of Proposition 8 have hit another shameless low. These full-time LGBT phobic professionals have filed a motion to dismiss Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s decision that declared Prop 8 unconstitutional because he is gay, in a committed relationship with another man, and could presumably benefit from the outcome of his own decision. This argument is insulting, and given the state’s financial crisis, it is also a waste of valuable tax dollars that could otherwise be invested in vital services.

The motion is one more indignity in a string of indignities that started with the passing of Prop 8 in November 2008. Prop 8 was a defining moment for us as individuals and as a movement as we witnessed our basic rights taken away by a slim majority of voters. Many lessons were learned during the Prop 8 campaign and one of them was that marriage equality, whether we win it back through the ballot or through the courts, must be connected to a number of issues that intersect with a broader movement for social and economic justice. The good news is that marriage equality inherently embodies a number of these issues, which are of great concern to the diverse LGBT communities and allies.

Access to affordable healthcare is one of those overlapping issues. In California, hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples and LGBT families don’t have access to affordable healthcare as healthcare insurance is a “pay to play” commodity that is traded in the volatile market of ever-increasing deductibles and premiums. Access to adequate and affordable healthcare should instead be treated as a basic human right so all Californians, including LGBT communities and people with HIV/AIDS, could have fair access and meet this basic need. Yet low-income people and increasingly the middle class are ever more deprived of the basic right to live a healthy life.

Currently, there are limited pathways to accessing affordable preventive and medical care: through an individual’s own financial resources, charity; or through an employer who provides this benefit for their employees, and in some cases, extending an employee’s coverage to their spouses and domestic partners. In this latter context, marriage equality affords us equal access to affordable healthcare. The issues become linked.

Although Equality California, legislators, and community advocates are increasingly closing the inequality gaps between marriage and domestic partnerships, a two-tier “separate but equal” system can never achieve full equality. The institution of marriage is universally understood and unequivocal in its rights and responsibilities and having a separate system leaves many vulnerable to second class treatment. Furthermore, the current unequal relationship between civil marriage and domestic partnerships in the eyes of thousands of employers and insurers provides an environment where domestic partners run the risk of not being offered healthcare benefits that their heterosexual counterparts might receive. Only those Californians who have the financial means and are aware of protections they have in this state are able to rectify this wrong. Most LGBT people, however, might not have the resources to effectively address this flaw and therefore suffer from this inequality. Without fully restoring marriage equality, and without the elimination of this two-tier system, this kind of discrimination is most likely to happen. Because most personal bankruptcies are due to exorbitant health expenses, particularly those who are hospitalized, having access to affordable healthcare through marriage also becomes an issue of economic justice as health insurance provides a level of economic stability.

In future posts, I will describe how marriage equality is an anchor right that is connected to many other social issues best addressed by a fully intersected social and economic justice movement.

8 Comments June 13, 2011

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