Hope Roller Coaster

The good news/bad news routine on immigration is a cruel April Fools' joke on gay and lesbian couples

by Sean Bugg
Published on March 31, 2011, 4:06am | Comments

Generally, I look for proof of the imminence of April Fools' Day in friendly pranks at the office, goofy headlines and news parodies. That's where foolish things belong, where they can inspire a giggle, a laugh or an amused eye-roll.

The past few days of immigration news, however, has offered little to laugh about for the gay and lesbian community despite how April Foolish the government's actions may be.

It's often lost in discussions of marriage equality, but immigration rights are an important part of recognizing our relationships as fully legal and equal. Unlike our heterosexual friends and families who, when marrying a partner from another county, can have their partner receive citizenship, gay couples in the same situation face separation, deportation or expatriation. Love knows no boundaries for heterosexual marriage; for gay and lesbian marriages, one of love's many boundaries is the U.S. border.

From the perspective of my own, non-legally recognized marriage, I consider myself lucky that my husband became a naturalized American citizen when he immigrated as a teenager. Immigration policy being what it is, he was fortunate enough to be heading to America from a communist country where the U.S. had fought a war — ''fortunate'' being a relative term when it comes to leaving behind one's home for a new and unfamiliar one — rather than one of the countries to our south that inspire the xenophobic desire to build giant fences.

So, even though our relationship isn't recognized in the state where we live, my husband has the sheet of paper that guarantees his right to be here as a citizen.

Other U.S. gays and lesbians aren't so lucky, even if they are legally married in D.C. or one of the states that offers full marriage equality. That's why the news that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had decided to hold in abeyance the green card applications of bi-national, married same-sex couples was greeted with such hope and barely restrained joy by so many. But as quickly as the hope was extended, it was withdrawn as the Department of Homeland Security stepped in and made clear that the abeyances would end — that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would continue to be fully enforced even as the Obama administration has announced it would not defend the applicable section of DOMA in court.

I'm sure there are some legal and political reasons the administration has quickly walked back the idea that some aspects of DOMA might go unenforced; there were legitimate, if infuriating, arguments to be made supporting the earlier White House decisions to defend ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' and DOMA in court challenges. That does nothing to lessen the fact that the government has managed to bait-and-switch the gay and lesbian community on a highly emotional and deeply important issue. The political expediency being indulged by the White House, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security — the determination to play every political moment by the book, even when they acknowledge that ''the book'' is wrong — comes at the expense of gays and lesbians and our relationships.

We're a nation that likes to talk a lot about liberty. It's unfortunate that we're also a nation so resistant to making a liberty a reality for us all.


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