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Emma Ruby-Sachs Headshot

Kerry Stands up for Gay Families But Misses the Point

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2009-03-20-bloggaymarriageimmigrationtop.jpg

There are thousands of couples in the United States who worry everyday about being forcibly torn apart by their government.

Even more LGBT citizens live separated from their partners and, in some cases, their children. As long as federal law doesn't recognize same-sex relationships, immigration laws won't allow for spousal sponsorships and that means those LGBT people unfortunate enough to fall in love with someone from a different country are destined to live with constant insecurity and pain.

Today, Senator Kerry has asked the Obama administration to do something for one couple in exactly this situation.

Junior Oliveira and Tim Coco were married in Massachusetts in 2005, own a house and a dog together, and have barely seen each other for two years. When Oliveira's asylum application was filed and then rejected, he was deported home to Brazil. Even a request to enter the United States to attend his mother-in-law's funeral was denied.

Kerry argues that Oliveira's asylum request was unfairly rejected as his claim that a prior rape in Brazil combined with an ongoing risk of homophobic attack in his home country should have justified a successful claim.

But that misses the point entirely.

Oliveira should not have to apply for asylum to live with his husband. And Coco, an American citizen, should not have to give up his life partner just because a judge didn't think Oliveira had been sufficiently traumatized by experiences in his past.

The idea of spousal sponsorship was based on the simple notion that American citizens should have the right to live with their life partner and their children even if the symbols on their passports don't all match.

But gay families have never been afforded this protection.

Instead, we see our partners or our friends' partners deported or refused entry. Worse still, many live with the constant insecurity that an expired visa or a lost job could tear you from your husband or wife permanently.

Repealing DOMA would eliminate the immigration problem, sure. But until then, immigration judges could solve this inequality by using their vast discretion to grant humanitarian asylum to individuals in committed or married same-sex relationships.

That's what Kerry should be asking for.

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