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James Peron Headshot

It's Obama's DOMA Now

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Shortly after Barack Obama took office and ratcheted up the war machine, it was noted by some that it's Obama's war now. I would argue it's Obama's Defense of Marriage Act now as well.

Some would argue it's unfair how Obama says he opposes the law and won't defend it. But he has also ordered the continued deportation of foreign-born, same-sex spouses of American citizens. Obama is great at rhetoric and awful at implementation. Just remember how badly he conducted the "repeal" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I ignore rhetoric. Politicians always sound better than they really are, or worse, depending on your perspective. Where I expected Obama to be decent, he hasn't been. And whether or not he will admit it, he has actively destroyed the lives of some gay Americans. I want to mention just one example, in particular, because the Obama Administration is about to force a couple apart, or force an American out of this country.

Four years ago Josh Vandiver met, and fell in love with, Henry Velandia. Henry is a professional dancer from Venezuela who opened his own dance studio in the United States. A year ago, the couple were legally married in Connecticut.

For heterosexual Americans, that marriage would be sufficient cause for Henry receiving a permanent visa and a legal road to citizenship. Only gay couples are denied that right. Henry applied for his permanent visa on the basis of his operating business. But U.S. immigration law is a nightmare, rooted in a combination of xenophobic bigotry and economic illiteracy. The application was rejected, as almost all such applications are.

Vandiver applied for an I-130 marriage-based green card for Henry, but the Defense of Marriage Act bans the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, even when legally performed by a state government. In January, that application was officially rejected.

Meanwhile, there are numerous legal cases in the courts that could overturn this discriminatory law. The Obama Administration knows this. And they have said they would not defend the law. Any of these cases could, and should, result in the repeal of a law that blatantly violates the 14th Amendment.

The federal government can delay the deportation process for various reasons, at its discretion. It need not grant the marriage-based petition, but it need not go ahead with deportations either. But, they are going ahead with the deportations. And when a foreign-born spouse is deported, he or she is forbidden from returning for 10 years. Effectively, the Obama Administration would be breaking up a legally-married couple.

With time running out for the couple, they asked immigration officials for "prosecutorial discretion," which would mean that they allow Henry to stay with his husband until the lawsuits are settled. "Discretion" would not repeal the law, or grant Henry a green card. Again, it would simply allow them to remain together while the cases are being decided.

Immigration said no. And Henry has to appear before an Immigration judge on Friday, a judge who is likely to order his arrest and deportation.

Immigration is saying they are doing this under orders from President Obama. The couple received a notice from Immigration stating:

On February 23, 2011, the Attorney General released a statement in which he indicated that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 'will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch.' In his statement, the Attorney General made it clear that 'the President has instructed the Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA.

Please note that it was Obama who ordered agencies to continue deporting same-sex, foreign-born spouses.

I don't wish to be melodramatic, but this reminds me of the Fugitive Slave Laws. Individuals held in slavery often escaped to states where slavery itself was illegal. Yet the federal government insisted that the slaves be returned to their masters. Congress of that day, like Congress of today, had passed a law denying equality of rights to one group of people: slaves. And the Fugitive Slave Law said that alleged slaves had no right to a jury trial.

Some would argue that Henry is not an American citizen and thus doesn't have the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. But that conveniently forgets Josh, who is an American citizen, but one who doesn't have the same rights as heterosexual Americans with foreign-born spouses.

On Friday it is likely that Henry will be forced to leave his partner of four years and his legal marriage will be treated as if it doesn't exist. When that happens the bigots will cheer and marriage-equality campaigners will be angry. But that anger ought to be directed at President Obama and Janet Napolitano -- they are the top of the chain of command in this injustice. And President Obama specifically ordered the continuation of deportations that ONLY target the spouses of gay Americans.

Individuals who wish to protest this injustice should call the Department of Homeland Security and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano at 202-282-2000. Hopefully, such protests won't get you put on a no-fly list. Also let the White House know that this disgrace is now Obama's disgrace.

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