Sunday, May 3, 2009

Immigration Equality and Its Opponents

Shirley Tan is a Filipino woman living in California with her partner of 23 years and their 12 year old twin sons. These two videos sum up her struggle.

The bill that was introduced in the senate will keep her here until the legislative session is over in 21 months (as long as the senators don't decided on the bill, which they probably won't). After that time, senator Feinstein will reintroduce the bill whenever it needs to be. This is a very special case, and the main reason she has been granted clemency is because her life will be in danger if she returns to the Philippines.

For other same-sex binational couples, this does not offer much hope. It took senators introducing a private bill to the legislature to insure that Shirley Tan doesn't have to leave her family. Federally recognized marriages come with a gaggle of benefits, including the right to sponsor a spouse who is not a citizen, so that he or she will not be deported. The department of homeland security doesn't make this easy. My stepdad is an Irish citizen, and in order for him to get his residency papers, he and my mom had to convince them that they weren't just trying to scam the system. They consolidated bank accounts, bought property together, and I had to write a letter to the government that attested to their love and commitment.

The Uniting American Families Act is a bill that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to be inclusive of same-sex couples. It states that a U.S citizen could sponsor his or her "Permanent Partner" for residency, and it also includes punishments and penalties for those that abuse it.

According to Wikipedia:

The UAFA defines Permanent Partner and Permanent Partnership as follows:

The term "permanent partner" means an individual 18 years of age or older who--

(A) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;

(B) is financially interdependent with that other individual;

(C) is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual;

(D) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act; and

(E) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.

The term "permanent partnership" means the relationship that exists between two permanent partners.

Groups opposed to this bill and to the bill that granted Shirley Tan clemency include the American Family Association (AFA) and Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (ATH). They claim that the bills grant "special rights" to same-sex couples. The founder and president of ATH, Peter LaBarbara, was quoted in an AFA action alert about the topic. He said "We don't need to start providing government benefits and special treatment to relationships based on homosexuality, which many people regard as a sin. I think this is an egregious example of special rights for homosexuals." He went on to say "Americans are already concerned over illegal immigration. I don't think most Americans want to give incentives to bring more homosexual activists into the country, which is what this case embodies."

It’s our job to help make it known that Americans DO want equal rights for same-sex couples. These organizations use mass e-mailing to shove lies down the throats of the people that read their spam. They twist facts, misquote people, and misrepresent legislation in these e-mails. On Tuesday, AFA sent out a declaration proclaiming that since the hate crimes bill doesn’t specifically define “sexual orientation,” the bill will “give legally protected status to 30 sexual orientations, including incest” (That was the headline). Basically, they went to the DSM- IV and picked out every psychological disorder that had anything to do with sex, then claimed that these could all be “protected” sexual orientations (even though some of them are blatantly illegal). Homosexuality and bisexuality are no longer in the DSM-IV, and AFA said that they were. The hate crimes bill doesn’t give “legally protected status” to anyone, since it pertains to motivations for crimes that would still be illegal no matter who was involved or why. Furthermore, sexual psychological disorders cannot be defined as sexual orientations, and many of them (including incest, exhibitionism, and bestiality) will never become legal, much less “protected.”

I read these mass e-mails because I think it’s important to keep an eye on what anti-gay conservative powers are saying to their supporters. If these people believe what they read every day in these e-mails – if they don’t bother to check the facts – it will be very hard to convince them otherwise. It’s important that we know exactly what lies and distorted facts they are being fed, so that we can better counteract those negative influences.

I don’t understand how they can logically claim that allowing same-sex couples the same legal protections as heterosexuals is somehow giving them “special rights.” It’s simple fairness! How is splitting up families and sending them to different parts of the world helping anyone? How is same-sex marriage a threat to anyone? I’m a firm believer that the only reason people even listen to these organizations is because they speak so loudly. We need to speak LOUDER. E-mail and call your senators and representatives. Tell them that you expect them to treat every one of their constituents equally. Tell them that marriage rights are civil rights. Tell them that it is unacceptable for them to deny legal rights and protections on the basis of sex. Tell them you want the Uniting American Families Act passed. Tell them that they will lose your vote if they don’t vote to pass it.

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