Monday, April 26, 2010

Act Locally, Make Change Globally for Binational Partners

The recent news about hospital visitation - how the policy that we, Equality NC, pushed for and got passed here in North Carolina had been picked up and cited in a presidential memo directing that this policy be adopted at the federal level - shows exactly how changes made at the local level can ripple out and have a much broader, perhaps even national or global, effect.

(If you missed the hospital visitation news, find out more about it in the Washington Post, the New York Times, The News & Observer, or News Channel 14.)

In recent weeks, several local governments have endorsed a critical piece of legislation for immigrant families. City councils across the country have passed resolutions supporting the national Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would end discrimination against LGBT binational couples. A dozen cities have now endorsed UAFA and called on Congress to support it.

In some ways the move is mainly symbolic, but it also build supports for ending discriminatory immigration laws that keep LGBT couples apart.

Some examples include:
  • Binghamton, NY
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Ferndale, MI
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • New York City
  • St. Louis, MO
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • West Hollywood, CA
These resolutions have occurred because of increased grassroots support of UAFA. Local groups have enlisted local voices to testify in support of the resolutions and tell their own stories of discrimination as part of a binational family.

These local events lay the groundwork for advancing the issue in Congress. Personal tales touch hearts and create change.

Here's a letter a friend of mine in Durham wrote to his local city council about his Canadian partner, who is being forced to leave the country for a year:


I've been impressed with the work you have done on the City Council, and I wanted to check with you to see if Durham could be among the progressive cities that are passing resolutions to support the Uniting American Families Act.

You see, I am the US citizen in a bi-national, same-sex couple. My partner and I have managed to legally remain together for over ten years. He's never been an illegal alien, always being here on an appropriate visa. Currently, he is on an H 1B visa and working as a math and science teacher at [SCHOOL].

Unfortunately, his current visa expires in August ... and in order to get another one, he must leave the US for one full year. [SCHOOL] loves him, but they can't afford to keep his position vacant for a year. At this point, we can only hope that they will have an opening for the 2011 school year and will be willing to sponsor him again for a visa.

If we were a heterosexual couple, we could have gotten married long ago. In fact, I could have sponsored him for a Green Card, and by now, he could have already become a US citizen himself. But we're not.

It's devastating to find that my spouse of ten years will have to leave the home we've created because our government doesn't value our relationship. I've been a good citizen all of my 49 years, paid my taxes, contributed to charities, been a part of my community, and yet, I feel that I'm only granted partial rights.

Of course, same-sex marriage would help provide equity, but let's face it, gay marriage is still a little far away. I believe it will happen, but not soon enough. In the meantime, the Uniting American Families Act is before the House and Senate. This bill would change US immigration rules to join the 19 or 20 other, more progressive, countries of the world who already allow their citizens to sponsor their unmarried, same-sex partners for immigration.

If Durham has not joined cities like Miami Beach, St. Louis, and Seattle in passing a resolution of support for this bill, would you be willing to introduce such a resolution?

I look forward to hearing from you.



This is a very real issue for them. These are their lives.

Have you contacted your local city council about this?

Never underestimate the effect a local, personal appeal may have on the larger issue. I know several LGBT couples who are binational. And every smaller step toward equality we take puts us closer to full equality.

For more information on immigration reform for LGBT folks, go to Immigration Equality and Out4Immigration.

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