Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One More Step Down The Aisle of Marriage Equality

There is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today.
Eric Holder, US Attorney General

A decade ago, I took a road trip north to see one of my best friends. When I got there, he had news for me: he was married. But not that kind of married. He agreed to a fully-legal-yet-counterfeit marriage to pave the way for a Scandanavian friend to stay in the US after her visa ran out. Because the national government recognized their marriage, she got to stay. My friend was "married" for 5 years (he didn't see her at all after he moved north) and then she legally divorced him and stayed in the country legally.

Now, what if instead of a fake heterosexual marriage , we imagined a real committed & loving relationship between an American man and, say, a Brazilian man? Brazilian and American fall in love and yearn to commit to a life-long relationship marked by unconditional love, forgiveness & service in a marriage officially sanctioned by the state and national governments. Unbelievable scenario? Of course not. This is the story of American political journalist Glenn Greenwald who lives full-time in Brazil with his "life partner" because Brazil actually grants same-sex partners permanent visas (one of 19 countries that do). He explains:

American citizens who marry a foreign national of the opposite sex are entitled to receive, more or less automatically, a Green Card for their spouse so they can live together in the United States. By rather stark contrast, gay American citizens who enter into a spousal relationship with a foreign national have (at most) two legal choices, both horrible:

(1) Live in the U.S., but remain permanently separated -- by oceans and continents -- from the person with whom they want to share their life; or

(2) Live together with one’s spouse in the spouse’s country, but be prevented from living in one’s own country.

As horrible as those two choices are, those who at least have that choice are, relatively speaking, quite lucky. Many gay Americans in a relationship with a foreign national don’t even have option (2) available, either because their spouse’s country also doesn’t extend immigration rights to same-sex couples and/or because they’re unable to earn a living while residing outside of the U.S.

In the United States, the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), passed by a GOP congress and signed into law by a Democratic President, legally defines marriage as "between a man and a woman," rendering lifelong same-sex partners to second-class citizenship. Those in Greenwald's situation (and there are literally thousands) are blocked by DOMA from sharing the 1,049 federal statutory provisions (like this one) classified to the United States Code in which benefits, rights, and privileges that are contingent on marital status.

But that succulent aroma in the political breeze is the smell of change fired up by our President who announced today that his administration will no longer defend DOMA's marriage provision in court because his convictions have changed regarding the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Act which specifically defines marriage solely between a man and woman. Only pressure and time will break the levees of injustice on this vital issue and Obama just broke out the pick-axe. We'll keep praying and prodding until we "let justice roll down like waters" (this may require a jackhammer next). Until then, join EasyYolk as we celebrate our gay brothers and lesbian sisters in North Hollywood for retro disco night this saturday at 10pm! It's way past my bedtime, but, hey, what a great excuse to break some rules.

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