VIDEO: For Thousands of Binational Couples Like Jackie & Gloria, The Fight Continues For The Right to Be Together
On February 22, 2012, San Francisco Judge Jeffrey S. White became the second Federal District Court judge in America to rule that DOMA was unconstitutional. The first such ruling came from Boston Judge Joseph Tauro in July 2010. At the time of his ruling, Judge Tauro was a 79-year old Republican appointee, President Richard Nixon’s longest-serving appointee to the federal bench. Tauro wrote two opinions that summer issued on the same day, each striking down DOMA as unconstitutional. Nearly two years passed before the appeals of Judge Tauro’s decisions would be heard and decided by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. As we all know now, last week a three-judge panel of that august appellate court ruled unanimously that DOMA was unconstitutional. The opinion itself was authored by Justice Boudin, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.
Two more Federal District Courts have also found DOMA to be unconstitutional in just the past two weeks. Yesterday, in New York’s Federal District Court for the Southern District, Clinton appointee, Judge Barbara S. Jones, declared DOMA to be unconstitutional in a case involving the now-famous LGBT rights activist, plaintiff, and widow, Edie Windsor. Last month, Oakland, California Judge Claudia Wilken also found DOMA to be unconstitutional in a similar case. In all there have been five rulings by four federal judges declaring DOMA Section 3 to be unconstitutional, and the unanimous federal appellate court ruling by the First Circuit in the “Gill” case, also striking down DOMA Section 3 as a violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.
What does this mean for married lesbian and gay binational couples? The argument that the Obama administration should develop and insitute interim remedies immediately could hardly be stronger, as the fate of DOMA is now more wobbly than ever. And yet the administration has done little to protect our families, instead citing DOMA as a reason for inaction. We must keep up the pressure on the Obama administration to demand an “abeyance” policy. Green card petitions filed by gay and lesbian couples must not be denied. We cannot accept “DOMA denials” by an administration which has aggressively argued that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution. No immigration reform or LGBT rights organization is currently engaged in a national “abeyance” campaign that would provide immediate relief for tends of thousands of lesbian and gay couples. The DOMA Project, by contrast, was conceived with exactly this advocacy in mind. To win full equality we must continue to achieve incremental gains. An abeyance policy, pending the final judicial resoultion of DOMA, is the appropriate next step. We must keep the focus on the harm caused every day to binational couples and our families, and we must be relentless. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for change to happen.
The fight is not over for binational couples, but there is some considerable wind at our backs. Make no mistake: the Supreme Court will still have the last word on whether the Defense of Marriage Act, i.e. whether the federal government’s refusal to recognize equally the legal marriages of same-sex couples, violates the U.S. constitution. And there is no way to know for certain what the outcome will be or when that decision will come. It may be one year or it may be several years. Gay and lesbian Americans have put their lives on hold, spent their savings and sacrificed years of their lives, deprived of stability because they cannot access the green card process. That is not an acceptable status quo and we should not allow it to be our reality one day longer.
Americans have been forced to live in exile with their same-sex partners or spouses, simply because they are gay. Their struggle continues on a daily basis. Every day lesbian and gay binational couples are separated by thousands of miles and unable to be together; LGBT families are torn apart, with parents kept apart from their children by this unfair law, and there is something that this administration can do to prevent it. It must end now.
This administration has the power to accept all green card petitions filed by same-sex couples and put those cases on hold, thus providing legal status and employment authorization to every couple. Gay and lesbian Americans should expect no less from this administration which has said repeatedly that DOMA is unconstitutional. If that is true, then the President should order an immediate moratorium on deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian American citizens. The President should do what he has done before in other immigration law contexts when such dynamic change is afoot and a law is in a state of flux. President Obama should put on hold all green card cases filed by lesbian and gay Americans for their foreign spouses until the final judicial resolution of DOMA has been determined by the Supreme Court.
Abeyance is the only humane policy to keep thousands of LGBT families, as many as 25% of whom are raising children, together.
VIDEO: Every day in this country, thousands of legally married lesbian and gay couples, like Jackie and Gloria, fight for something most of us take for granted — the simple right to be together.
Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government refuses to recognize, respect or honor their marriages for all legal purposes including immigration.
On April 4, Jackie and Gloria traveled to Boston to witness history. Sitting in a courtroom audience, they listened as judges and attorneys debated whether the Constitution guarantees their right to be treated equally as a married couple.
Less than 60 days later, the First Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court in the United States to strike down DOMA, an important milestone on the road to full equality.
Looking at these two young women — so full of love for each other and wanting nothing more than to build a future together — we cannot allow this cruel and discriminatory law to tear them apart.
(Video by The DeVote Campaign in collaboration with Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project)