On Being Positive on World AIDS Day
By Christopher Edwards on 12/01/2010 @ 11:19 AM
The appointment was supposed to be just a check-in. I already thought I'd cleared the hurdle.
Instead on October 18, 1999, at the SF City Clinic I was told that I was HIV-positive. I was 25. The date kinda sticks you know? I have a tattoo on my left of arm of chai, Hebrew for both "living" and the number 18, which I saw and still see as especially prophetic.
As I delved into my art school studies and tried to find a way to answer the anger and confusion, I spent several months becoming deeply intimate with David Wojnarowicz, whose cross-disciplinary work in the 1980s, dealt with themes about sex and love and HIV and the male body. His work was and is challenging, and right now he continues to be misunderstood as a piece of his is in the middle of a censorship controversy at the National Portrait Gallery.
Now, 11 years later — nine of those years in a binational relationship — I can let the distance between my emotions take in the meaning of HIV to me and the epidemic to our community and to Immigration Equality.
Of all the important emotions that I attach to my relationship is the understanding that the stability of that relationship, as unstable as our unjust immigration system has made it, has helped me stay healthy, helped my immune system respond in a healthy way.
Because of the important work of HIV-positive activists, living with the disease in the U.S. right now, especially in a cities like New York and San Francisco, offers a plethora of support for healthy living. I'm also indebted to the work of activists in the 1980s, 1990s, and even today that have fought so hard for that social safety net. Included in those are the activists that founded Immigration Equality, in response to ban on travel and immigration for HIV-positive people.
Being apart of Immigration Equality, then as a volunteer and now as an employee, as that ban was overturned and the very first HIV positive immigrants are allowed to seek asylum here has been an incredible journey. The overturning of the HIV ban is a very powerful statement to our perseverance as well as the perseverance of activists in creating the change we want and need.
Several years ago, thinking about the important performance work David Wojnarowicz, I kissed statistics from the worldwide AIDS epidemic as a form of blessing. Today, on World AIDS Day, I share that piece with you:
HuffingtonPost Highlights LGBT Binational Families on Thanksgiving
By Steve Ralls on 11/25/2010 @ 09:50 AM
This morning, HuffingtonPost.com's home page includes the stories of LGBT binational families as part of the site's 'Thanksgiving 2010' coverage. HuffPo - one of the most widely read sites on the web - features Immigration Equality's recent work on behalf of the Uniting American Families Act among its front page headlines for the holiday.
As most Americans begin the holiday season on Thursday, in a national observance of "thanks," many will come together with family, friends and loved ones. But for one group of Americans, the holidays can be an especially painful experience. Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in relationships with partners from abroad will be forced to spend Thanksgiving alone... or packing their bags so they can keep their families together.
Under current U.S. immigration laws, lesbian and gay Americans do not have the right to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency, as their straight neighbors do. Instead, immigration laws force these couples -- about 17,000 of whom are raising young children who are American citizens -- to separate or leave the country, forced into exile because their families are not recognized under federal law. This painful reality is forcing many American citizens, and their families, to flee their own country, exacting a heavy cost on our economy, communities and on the countless people who constitute their extended families, too.
In San Jose, California, Judy Rickard will spend Thanksgiving without her partner Karin, who is a British citizen. Judy took early retirement from her job with a university so she could be with her partner. Though Karin has been able to remain in the U.S. for six months each year, thanks to a tourist visa, the couple were forced to live abroad the remainder of the year. When Karin was forced to return to Britain earlier this year, however, Judy had to remain behind. Now, they will spend the holidays apart, while confronting a painful choice together: Will Judy sell her home and relocate abroad? And if she does, how will she maintain ties with her family -- including her elderly parents -- here in the United States?
Each day, more and more binational couples are moving abroad, as 19 countries -- and counting -- allow them to keep their families together. While many nations have amended their immigration laws to recognize lesbian and gay families (with Ireland being just the latest to do so), the United States continues to bar federal recognition of those families at nearly every turn.
The stark reality is that United States law is forcing Americans to rip their families apart, or leave their own country in order to be with the person they love.
By Staff on 11/24/2010 @ 09:59 AM
This week, families will begin the holiday season with a day of thanks. All of us at Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund wish our clients, families, supporters, allies and champions a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with peace.
We know that, for many of you, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time,too. Too many of our families remain separated, or in exile, because of discriminatory immigration laws. To each of you, we reaffirm our commitment to ending the unconscionable discrimination you face . . . permanently, and as soon as possible.
For the LGBT asylees who have turned to us for help throughout the past year, this Thanksgiving represents new beginnings and new possibilities. We are proud to have been part of your journey, and celebrate the new life you are now building.
The entire Immigration Equality family is grateful for the enormous support and inspiration we receive, every day, from friends around the world. And, whether you are fortunate enough to be celebrating this Thanksgiving with your loved ones, or whether you are observing the holiday miles apart, please know that you are not alone. We stand with you, in spirit and determination, and re-dedicate ourselves to making sure that our families are treated equally under the law.
New Co-Sponsor on the Immigration Subcommittee!
By Connie Utada on 11/19/2010 @ 11:11 AM
Post-election, support for the Uniting American Families Act continues to grow. Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR, pictured) is the newest member of Congress to cosponsor. He is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee and its Immigration Subcommittee. The total of House cosponsors is now 136 including the lead, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
If your Member of Congress is a current co-sponsor please call their office, via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and thank them for standing up for our families! If your representative has yet to co-sponsor the bill, call the same number to ask him or her to cosponsor; you can learn of additional ways to take action here.
Bilerico: Standing With LGBT Families in This Congress, This Year
By Steve Ralls on 11/19/2010 @ 11:03 AM
As the 111th Congress moves into its final weeks, the LGBT community has rightly recognized that the window for legislative victory on issues important to our movement is quickly coming to a close. And yet, while repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban has also rightly been a focus of LGBT advocate and allies, another issue with an immense impact on our families has now appeared on the lame-duck radar, too.
On Tuesday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced that he had met with President Obama - and spoke with Congressional leaders - about the possibility of moving his comprehensive immigration reform bill forward before Congress goes home. Menendez's bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S.3932), contains a number of measures to fix our country's broken immigration system. Among those is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would end the discrimination LGBT families face under current immigration laws, and allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for residency in the United States.
For the LGBT families who are facing separation or exile, time is - and always has been - of the essence. Immigration Equality's attorneys are hearing from more and more couples who are now separated, or exiled, because they cannot remain in the country together. In fact, in recent days, I have personally spoken to numerous couples who have already applied for residency in Canada, and are now preparing to leave the U.S. so they can remain together. There is no doubt that, for these families, passage of UAFA cannot come quickly enough.
In the bigger picture, though, passage of inclusive reform offers a very significant leap forward for all of rights, too. Passage of the Menendez bill would, indeed, mark the first time that LGBT couples receive federal recognition as a family. That, in turns, breaks down a huge wall that has long separated LGBT Americans and countless federal benefits.
In short, UAFA (either as a stand-alone measure, or as part of a larger bill, like the one sponsored by Senator Menendez) helps not only LGBT binational families, but every LGBT family, too. By mobilizing the LGBT and progressive communities behind this bill, and building support for consideration in the lame duck Congress, we can strike a blow against laws that have rendered LGBT couples invisible at the federal level.
Yesterday, the Immigration Equality Action Fund launched a national push to build support for the Menendez bill. The organization asked its supporters to call their Senators, and urge them to co-sponsor - and support passage of - Senator Menendez's bill.
In order to be successful, though, we need more than just binational families, and the wider circle of those impacted by this issue, to speak up now.
This Friday: Binational Families on WAMU's "Metro Connection"
Posted on 11/10/2010 @ 08:00 AM
This Friday, National Public Radio affiliate WAMU will look at the struggles and obstacles LGBT binational families face in their quest to remain together. WAMU's Metro Connection speaks with Immigration Equality and Washington, D.C. couple Erwin de Leon and John Beddingfield. Though Erwin and John - who is an Episcopalian minister - are legally married in the District, they face possible separation once Erwin's student visa expires.
Metro Connection reporter Rebecca Sheir reports on the lives of LGBT binational families, and the work to end the discrimination they face under current immigration law, at 1pm ET on Friday (with an encore broadcast on Saturday morning at 7am ET).
To listen in live, click here. Archived audio will also be available, beginning Friday afternoon.
GLAD, DOMA, The Second Circuit & Your Family
By Steve Ralls on 11/09/2010 @ 02:51 PM
In another bold legal move on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, our allies at Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) have filed a federal law suit, in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
GLAD's lawsuit challenges "Section 3" of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from extending critically important benefits to LGBT couples whose marriages are legally recognized by their state or local governments. Among those benefits are the ability for American citizens to sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes.
Immigration Equality's legal team has conferred closely with GLAD, over a long period of time, to discuss the impact of DOMA challenges, such as this one, on binational families. Our conclusion? If successful, the defeat of DOMA would be very good news for those families.
The suit announced today by GLAD specifically relates to the Second Circuit, which includes couples (as indicated in the graphic above) who are legally married in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The legal challenge follows on the heels of GLAD's successful case in Massachusetts Federal District Court, earlier this summer, which found Section 3 to be unconstitutional.
"DOMA must fall," Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for GLAD, said earlier today. "In 1996, when Congress passed DOMA, the stated goal was to harm gay people and same-sex families with this law, and sadly, it has succeeded. Married gay and lesbian couples fall through the federal safety nets that exist for other married people. We have to keep the press on, and get DOMA off the books, before it does even more harm."
We applaud GLAD's leadership in working to end discrimination against all LGBT families, including binational families who have, for far too long, been denied the same immigration rights as their straight neighbors.
For more information, visit GLAD online.
Stand with our Families!: Ask your Senators to Support CIR
By Julie Kruse on 11/09/2010 @ 08:49 AM
Last week, many of you joined us on our post-election conference call to learn about what Tuesday’s vote means for our families. The short answer is that the new Congress will bring new opportunities, and new challenges.
Our work to seize those opportunities, and meet those new challenges, begins today.
For the first time ever, LGBT immigrant families are included in broader reform legislation. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010, sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is the first comprehensive Senate bill to include our families.
It is imperative that we stand with our champions in Congress and build support for this critically important legislation.
Please call your senators today, and make the following ask:
Please co-sponsor the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S 3932). This bill will allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure our voices are heard on Capitol Hill. By calling your Senator today, you can help us put lawmakers on notice that, regardless of which party is leading Congress, our families want – and need – LGBT-inclusive immigration reform now.
We will continue to make progress in Washington, but we can’t do it without your help. Please take a moment — right now — to call your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor this important legislation.
Join us, and demand change in this Congress, this year. We can send a strong message to Congress that our families will not step down, will not rest and will push – every day and with every lawmaker — for immigration reform that helps all families.
Thank you for being part of that effort, and for everything you do for LGBT families.
Superbowl Champion Scott Fujita Speaks Out in Support of LGBT Immigrant Families
By Steve Ralls on 11/04/2010 @ 09:17 AM
Writing that "It is time to reunite America. No family excluded," NFL linebacker and Superbowl champion Scott Fujita (pictured) joins Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) in calling for passage of LGBT-inclusive immigration reform in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
Fujita, who now plays with the Cleveland Browns and is also a member of the NFL Players Association's executive board, offers a strong endorsement of Honda's Reuniting Families Act - the first multi-issue immigration bill to include LGBT binational families.
"The Reuniting Families Act, which I will reintroduce in the 112th Congress," Honda writes, "allows all Americans to be reunited with their families. That includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender permanent partners."
"We are both of Japanese American descent," Fujita and Honda note. "I was raised (and Scott's father was raised) in World War II-era internment camps for Japanese Americans. Thus we are keenly aware of the need for our society to be more inclusive."
"In the wake of Tuesday's election," they add, "political analysts are busily predicting what the outcome means for Congress and the country. With Republicans now in the majority in the House of Representatives, many policies will probably change radically. What must not change, however, is work on immigration reform. "
The benefits of passing inclusive reform, the two write, "cannot be overstated."
"American workers with their families by their side are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those living apart from loved ones for years on end," their joint op-ed states. "By pooling resources, families can do together what they can't do alone - start family businesses, create American jobs and contribute more to this country's welfare."
To read the full op-ed, click here.
Join us for a post-election strategy call
By Rachel Tiven on 10/29/2010 @ 06:10 PM
Tuesday is election day. If you are registered to vote, please do so.
Then, join me on Thursday, November 4th at 1pm ET/10am PST for a special post-election strategy call. To RSVP, and submit a question, click here.
Post-Election Strategy Call
Thursday, November 4, 1 PM EST / 10 AM PST
Call-In Number: (712) 432-0075
Access Number: 754532
Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections, there will be new opportunities, and new challenges, in our work to end discrimination against our families. We’ll discuss the new political landscape on Capitol Hill, preview our plan for moving forward in the next Congress, and answer questions about how you can be part of our strategy to win.
Please mark you calendar for Thursday at 1pm ET / 10am PST, and plan to join us for this important discussion about how we move progress forward for our families.
I look forward to talking with you on Thursday.
Rufus Wainwright, GLBT History Month Icon and One-Half of Binational Couple
By Christopher Edwards on 10/29/2010 @ 05:24 PM
Copyright © GLBT History Month
All this month Equality Forum has been celebrating GLBT History Month by highlighting various icons within the community. From George Washington Carver to Mara Keisling and Kiyoshi Kuramiya, the list is a powerful reminder of LGBT voices from throughout history.
Today's icon is Rufus Wainwright who is particularly important to the binational community as he's found his voice as a supporter of equality because of his relationship with German theatre producer Jörn Weisbrodt.
For the uninitiated, Rufus Wainwright, the son of the folksinger legends Katie McGarrigle and Loudon Waingwright III, has since 1998 been known for his own musical contributions and artistic endeavors, including pieces in the soundtracks of Moulin Rouge and Brokeback mountain.
In 2005, Rufus began dating Weisbrodt who in turn inspired Rufus to talk about the discrimination to same-sex partners in immigration:
"I have been with Jörn for five years and he's the light of my life. He's my inspiration, support and he's good in the sack, too! But I am very aware of living in the U.S., of the conundrum that you can't marry your gay partner and give him citizenship."
"He has to apply for a green card and he may or may not get accepted, which is annoying when you're in a committed relationship. If we were straight, we could get married and he'd get his American passport and it would make a lot of sense. I wasn't a huge gay marriage supporter before I met Jörn … But since meeting Jorn that all changed."
It's a story many those of us in binational relationships know to well. The frustration of not being able to live freely in your home country with the one you love has inspired my own activism and I known many of you that feel the same. As we think about those people that have offered their contributions to our fight for equality and our LGBT history, we think about those whose stories include immigration.
We offer our congratulations to Rufus on his being an icon of LGBT history and offer our thanks to him for using his celebrity platform to talk about the immigration discrimination faced by his family and thousands of other binational couples.
Photo courtesy of GLBT History Month.
Hike Croton Dam and Help Support the Action Fund
By Christopher Edwards on 10/12/2010 @ 06:33 PM
Immigration Equality supporter William Lopez is once again leading a fundraiser hiking trip to Croton Dam in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. This year, with the intensification of our work on Capitol Hill, the hike will support the Action Fund.
He'd love your support or have you join him in the walk. Details are after a statement from William about the hike:
I'm a Colombian affected directly by the unfair immigration laws in the USA. I'm organizing a hiking trip to help raise money toward the $11,000 goal for the month of October.
[A goal that is being matched dollar-for-dollar by three binational couples]
I would like to raise at least $500 on this activity. The hike is not very difficult so everybody can go and invite family and friends and be generous on your donations. If we want UAFA pass on the Congress we have to contribute to the cause.
In the same way that I'm organizing this trip, anybody can organize fundraising events, parties, cooking classes, every dollar counts.
|When:||Saturday October 16th 2010|
|Meeting Place:||Croton-Harmon Train Station
Croton-on-Hudson N.Y. 10520
|Suggested donation:||As much as you can|
|Directions, etc.:||Download the complete information kit. (PDF)|
Questions? Email William.
DC Celebrates: Our Families. Together.
By Rachel Tiven on 10/07/2010 @ 01:24 PM
I hope you’ll join me on Thursday, October 21st for our fall D.C. reception and fundraiser, presented by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
1526 14th Street, NW
(between P & Q Streets, Logan Circle)
Washington, DC 20005
Thursday, October 21st
6 – 8 PM
This year, we’ll be joined by Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic Nun and Co-Executive Director of the National Coalition of American Nuns. Sister Gramick is not just any nun; she is an outspoken supporter of our families. She is co-founder of New Ways ministries, and is one of the most prominent, pro-LGBT voices of faith working to end discrimination against our community.
We’ll also be joined by Immigration Equality client Roi Whaley, who was recently featured in The Advocate. Roi, who is battling stage III cancer, is currently separated from his Filipino partner, Aurelio. They turned to our legal team for help, so that Aurelio can return home to Mississippi with Roi.
We hope you will join us, and bring along your friends. And please bring your checkbook. There is no obligation to contribute, though we hope that if you’re impressed by our hard work on the Hill that we hope you’ll want to be part of it.
After last week's record-breaking UAFA co-sponsorships in both the House and the Senate, we’re very excited to see you in Washington to celebrate the remarkable progress we’re making on behalf of LGBT immigrant families!
(We’re very excited to announce a special opportunity to win a $1,000 Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams shopping spree while supporting the work of Immigration Equality Action Fund. Browse their fabulous catalog here.)
DADT / DREAM Act Unity Statement
By Staff on 10/07/2010 @ 11:45 AM
We are proud to stand with GetEQUAL, United We Dream, Presente.org today on two vital issues facing our community: Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and passing the DREAM Act. Our joint statement is below:
Patriotic Americans Say: “Let Us Serve”
Passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are bipartisan measures which enjoy the support of a majority of Americans. Both make economic sense and both would right a moral wrong in America.
The grassroots movements advocating for both the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and passage of the DREAM Act call on our Senators to support these measures and to stand up to politicians who push talented gay and immigrant Americans into the shadows in order to loudly rile up an angry minority.
Gay, lesbian, and immigrant service members have fought and died throughout our country’s history so that every human being in the United States could be free. It is in their honor that we fight a shared injustice, motivating us all to join hands and fight together. We are actively healing past differences and are determined to overcome every obstacle that stands between us and our full humanity.
When a woman serving her country in Afghanistan sees her life and career destroyed because she is lesbian, or a man who has risen through the ranks decides not to re-enlist because of homophobic policies, all of us suffer.
When an immigrant youth who has grown up in America -- who graduates from high school and considers himself to be an American in every way -- has to live in fear of deportation instead of being allowed to pursue his dreams in the military or the classroom, all of America pays the price.
Both passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are absolutely necessary to restore the basic principles of justice and liberty which have defined America since our founding. And both are significant down payments on the struggles for equal justice under the law for the immigrant and LGBT communities in America.
Our lives have been tossed around like political footballs for too long, and we will not accept the cowardice of political leaders who hide behind complaints about “process” or false claims that justice for some is a substitute for justice for all. Our futures are sewn together and equality can only be obtained when all of us can feel the warmth of freedom.
It is for these patriots and the thousands like them that we fight for justice:
Felipe Matos came to the United States from Brazil at the age of 14. In high school, he joined the NJROTC because he wanted to join the Navy and serve the country he loves and calls home. Even though he earned one of the highest scores in the military aptitude test and many recruiters called him for two years, he was not able to serve. Felipe went on to Miami Dade College, where he is studying business administration, was elected president of the student government, and has served as the student representative on the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees. “I identify myself as queer and I have a partner who I love dearly. I need passage of the DREAM Act and repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ for me to be able to serve in the Navy without fear and out of the shadows.”
Lt. Dan Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic. He served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq and later served in the National Guard. Lt. Choi served for a decade under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that is completely antithetical to the values he learned at West Point. Deception and lies poison a unit and cripple a fighting force. He served his country with honor, yet was discharged from the military in the summer of 2010, one year after publicly announcing that he was gay.
Cesar Vargas grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from high school and then college. Now, he's in his third year in law school and dreams of serving as a JAG officer or on the front line as an intelligence officer to lead Marines. Cesar considers himself an American in all but paperwork, but cannot serve the country he loves because he lacks immigration papers.
Corporal Evelyn Thomas, born in Los Angeles and raised in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was honorably discharged in 1991. In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
Nelly came to the U.S. at nine years old with her parents, who wanted to provide her with a better life. She went on to graduate from high school with a 4.0 GPA, was elected class president, and even served as Cadet Commander of her high school’s ROTC program -- all while holding a job to support her family. “I took the military entrance exam and got very high scores. I was set to get a good job in the army,” Nelly said, “but when it came time to submit my documentation, I couldn’t go any further.”
Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman. She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician. She retired after 20 years as a Fire Controlman First Class. At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, she was awarded a Veteran’s Administration Service Connected Disability rating. She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003, and has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations.
Gaby Pacheco was brought to this country from Ecuador at age 7. In 2006, immigration agents raided her family home, and they have been fighting deportation since. Gaby was the highest ranked Junior ROTC student in her high school and scored highest on the military’s vocational aptitude test. The Air Force tried to recruit her, but her immigration status prevented her from serving. With a military career not possible, Gaby went on to earn two associate’s degrees and served as president of both the student government and the statewide community college student association. Gaby is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in special education.
Celebrating Milestones, Where Do We Go From Here?
By Gannon Long on 10/04/2010 @ 03:28 PM
Last week was among the best yet for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). We are at the brink of real change for our families because of you!
There’s no doubt momentum is building, let us count the ways:
Raised our voices in Washington
While bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) lobbied for our families on Capitol Hill last Thursday, you and other amazing grassroots activists across the country generated almost 300 phone calls and 35 letters, asking Congress to support UAFA.
If you still have not called, please do so now!
More support in Congress, than ever before
In the month of September, your persistence helped us add 10 new cosponsors in the House, and 2 in the Senate. With 135 total cosponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate, we have more support in Congress than ever before. Sign up today to learn how YOU can add to our list of cosponsors!
First ever, LGBT-inclusive comprehensive immigration bill
For the first time ever, the Uniting American Families Act has been introduced in Congress as part of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill! Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill last week; please call (202) 224-4744 to thank him for supporting our families.
Keeping the momentum going
There’s no doubt UAFA is picking up steam and our voices are being heard on Capitol Hill, but we can’t let that momentum stop. We need to keep going strong.
So what can you do now to help keep the pressure on? Meeting with your congressperson is the most effective way for you to advocate for UAFA. We need elected officials to hear our stories and personally understand why no one should have to choose between family and country.
Sign up for our upcoming online trainings on Tuesday, October 5 or Wednesday, October 6, at 8:30 PM Eastern/ 5:30 PM Pacific. We’ll cover everything you need to know about organizing a meeting with your Representative in Congress — no experience necessary. Join us!
Senator Menendez Introduces Inclusive Immigration Reform
Posted on 09/30/2010 @ 10:28 AM
The Immigration Equality Action Fund today hailed the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ, pictured), which includes the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a measure to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrant families.
“The Immigration Equality Action Fund welcomes Senator Menendez’s inclusive legislation, and calls on Congress to pass comprehensive reform, and fix our broken immigration system, immediately,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “This new bill includes numerous, positive developments for LGBT immigrants, including UAFA, the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship. All three components are important to ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants are able to contribute fully to our country while keeping their families together. The LGBT community must press for the passage of Senator Menendez’s bill, and call on our allies in Congress to support the legislation. This legislation will finally end the obstacles so many families – both gay and straight – struggle with every day.”
Under current immigration law, lesbian and gay Americans are unable to sponsor their foreign-born partners for residency in the United States. As a result, LGBT binational couples are forced apart, or into exile, by discriminatory immigration laws. UAFA – sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) – would eliminate that double standard, and apply immigration laws equally to LGBT Americans, and their partners. UAFA is currently co-sponsored by 161 lawmakers in both chambers of Congress.
“It is simply unconscionable that our immigration laws tear families apart,” Tiven concluded. “Senator Menendez’s legislation, which is a truly comprehensive bill, would provide LGBT families with important opportunities to keep their families together. The bill’s introduction is welcome news not just for lesbian and gay Americans, but also their extended families, their communities and our country. The Immigration Equality Action Fund is committed to working for its passage.”
Stand with Elizabeth
By Rachel Tiven on 09/30/2010 @ 09:49 AM
Dear Immigration Equality Supporters,
I wanted you to be the first to know: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the runaway best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, has just arrived on Capitol Hill to begin a day of lobbying on behalf of our families.
All day today, Elizabeth will be walking the halls of Congress with Immigration Equality Action Fund staffers, and meeting one-on-one with lawmakers to personally ask that they support the Uniting American Families Act.
Our morning kicked off at 7:30am, with a briefing for Elizabeth by our policy team. Before we wrap up at 5:30 this afternoon, we will have met with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate.
We couldn’t be more excited to have Elizabeth with us in Washington. Now, we need you to join us, too.
Help amplify her voice on Capitol Hill:
Today, Elizabeth will be bringing our stories to Congress. But we need your help and involvement – tomorrow and every day after that – to ensure our momentum continues and our voices are heard.
Stand with Elizabeth as she speaks out for LGBT binational families. Together, we can ensure that no one is faced with the untenable choice between family and country.
Mobilizing Against Injustice, Wherever It Is
By Christopher Edwards on 09/27/2010 @ 07:05 PM
Last week I joined 40-something of the best LGBT activists in the country at New Organizing Institute Education Fund's LGBT Boot Camp. Over the course of the week we worked on simulated campaigns to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), learned from the best practitioners in organizing, and shared with each other our goals and aspirations for the LGBT movement while figuring out ways we can all better work together.
It was truly an inspiring week. And I was very happy and honored to have made it through the selective application process.
Why Immigration Is a LGBT Issue
One of things that came up for me during the event was having to underscore why immigration is an LGBT issue. Our Executive Director Rachel Tiven has spoken passionately on this before but I never had my own story, my own understanding that drove home this point.
That changed at LGBT Boot Camp on Thursday night when we reviewed the case study of BastaDobbs.com — a coordinated campaign between general political and immigration groups to pressure CNN to "Stop Dobbs" (or "Basta Dobbs" in Spanish).
Listening to the clips from Dobbs' show and looking at his tactics — half-truths, outright lies, and innuendo to defame immigrants in the U.S., I thought of how similarly those that would stop the march to LGBT equality have employed these exact same tactics.
In particular, Dobbs lumped together undocumented immigrants from Latin America with rapists and murderers. I remembered a time in 1989, when I was in high school and just starting to come out. I was in a driver's education class where my teacher made this exact same comment about LGBT peoples. He casual mentioned that we'd be on the road with "rapists, murders, and homosexuals." Exactly like Dobbs, demonizing through word association.
We've been here before. We've been harassed over our families. We've been faced with a public that would rather see our sex lives than have empathy for us as humans.
Just like immigrants of all stripes have. This is why immigration is an LGBT issue. We must stand on the right side against hatred and bigotry. Whereever it is found.
Elizabeth Gilbert — a straight ally with a foreign-born spouse — is joining us to stand up for our families and UAFA on Capitol Hill. We, as individual citizens, must join her in her lobbying congress. We must show the immigration communities that we understand their situation. That we are ready to mobilize against injustice.
You can join Elizabeth at our Engage, Lobby, Love site where you will find 3 ways to become directly involved. Remember where we've been and the hatred we've suffered, and let that be a reminder that we can't make change without taking action. Join Elizabeth on her journey for our families.
Upsurge in UAFA Co-Sponsors Continues
By Julie Kruse on 09/27/2010 @ 03:17 PM
The list of co-sponsors for the Uniting American Families Act continues to grow. By the end of last week, we again beat our record high for co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate. With the addition of Representatives James Garamendi (D-CA, pictured) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ), we now have a total of 134 cosponsors in the House – including our lead sponsor, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) also added his name to the list of co-sponsors in the Senate, bringing our total co-sponsors there to 25, including our lead sponsor, Senator Leahy (D-VT).
(See last week's press release for statements from Senator Leahy and Congressman Nadler about the recent upsurge in co-sponsors.)
Thank you to the grassroots for your continued efforts to have your member of Congress support the Uniting American Families Act! If your Senators and Representatives are cosponsors, please call their office, via the Capitol switchboard, at (202) 224-3121 and thank them for standing up for our families!