My heart sank this week when I heard that a bipartisan immigration framework from the Senate didn't include families like mine. That was particularly disappointing following the news that the green card applications for the spouses of two of my fellow gay Americans had been denied by the U.S. government. But because the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex spouses, New Yorkers Adi Lavy and Tzila Levy and Marylanders Kelly Costello and Fabiola Morales will now live under the threat of being torn apart.
It seems an especially cruel and unwarranted decision now -- just as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA in June and Congress is moving readily toward reforming our immigration system. At the very least, shouldn't the green card applications of same-sex spouses be put on hold -- or held in abeyance -- until the Supreme Court decision?
I count myself as one of the lucky ones, at least for now. Last year around this time, my Australian husband and partner of 20 years, Anthony John Makk, was granted a two-year stay of deportation after my California congressional representatives, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, intervened in our case.
It's hard to express what a relief that was. Anthony is literally the reason I get up in the morning. As someone who was raised by a single mom alongside four other siblings, I know the importance of family. Anthony is my family. He is also my sole caretaker. I have AIDS and, when I met him, I had already lost nearly everyone who gave texture to my world to AIDS.
The circumstances of my health are partly why I identified so deeply with these two couples, even though we are separated by the vast expanse of land between the coasts of this great country. Similar to Anthony, Tzila serves as the main caretaker for her American spouse Adi, who is waiting for a kidney transplant. Meanwhile, Kelly and Fabiola are anticipating the arrival of twins -- due to be born on the Fourth of July, no less -- even as they navigate the challenges of Fabiola's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Our cases are just three examples among countless others that make me wonder first and foremost: Why does our government continue to be in the business of tearing apart families? No American citizen who would otherwise have the right to sponsor their partner for residency should live with the burden of knowing they could lose the single most important person in their life simply because of their sexual orientation. And kids who are born in this country and are American citizens should never face the threat of losing one of their parents to deportation, as was the case of Jashley and Jorienne Mercado, the twin sons of Jay Mercado and Shirley Tan. Jay and Shirley, a San Francisco lesbian couple, were threatened with separation in 2009 when immigration officials showed up at their home and attempted to deport Shirley.
While I remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will nullify DOMA and LGBT Americans nationwide will be able to sponsor their partners for residency, there is no guarantee. This Supreme Court has proven uniquely unpredictable on matters ranging from its ruling upholding President Barack Obama's health reform law to the fact that it decided to weigh the constitutionality of California's Prop 8 (a case that nearly everyone thought the Justices would not take) alongside that of DOMA. Though some people seem content to assume the DOMA ruling will solve the problems of same-sex binational couples, I prefer not to leave our future in the hands of a fate over which we have no control.
While we cannot predict a Supreme Court ruling, we do have an opportunity to make sure LGBT families and immigrant families, more broadly, aren't needlessly torn apart by a broken system that doesn't recognize or value them. For the good of the country, our immigration system should strengthen all families, not weaken them. U.S. lawmakers have the rare opportunity to do that right now -- an opportunity that only seems to come around once in a generation.
I hope they take it. I am counting on the architects of that law, such as Sens. Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez, along with support and a commitment from President Obama, to give me the chance to do what the vast majority of American citizens can do for the person who makes their world whole -- live alongside them in the country they love. Including LGBT families in immigration reform would provide Anthony and me and some 30,000 other families with the safety net we so badly need. That's not about Republican values or Democratic values. It's about family values.
Life is challenging enough right now. So many people are struggling with the basics of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head. So let's make it easier for everyone to support the ones they love by strengthening the family bonds that have served for centuries as the foundation of this country.
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