Big news for gay couples returning from travel abroad: the days of being being humiliated at the border may soon be over. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proposing a revision to its regulations that would allow gay couples to fill out a single form as a family. According to Department of Homeland Security:
CBP is proposing to expand the definition of the term "members of a family residing in one household" to allow more U.S. returning residents to file a family customs declaration for articles acquired abroad. CBP anticipates that this proposed change will reduce the amount of paperwork that CBP officers would need to review during inspection and, therefore, facilitate passenger processing. CBP believes that this proposed change would more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family.
Increasingly, gay couples are pushing back against customs agents who require them to fill out separate forms rather than recognize them as family. Rudy Molinet, a Key West real estate broker, and his spouse, Harry Hoehn, were confronted by a customs agent as the couple were returning from France through customs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. On his personal blog, Rudy writes:
When Harry and I approached the customs officer to enter, we walked up together as did every other married couple in line. I was ordered to "get back in line, only families can come up here together".
This was my lunch counter moment. I calmly told the immigration officer that Harry was my husband and that I would not get back in line. He became confrontational. "We don't recognize your marriage, you are not a family unit under the law, and I order you to get back in line", he barked.
I refused. I took a stand. I told the officer, "I am not a second-class citizen, I am an American citizen, and the only way I will go to the back of the bus is if you arrest me and put me there". It was quite a stand-off, a stare down. He was armed with a gun; I was armed with a greater weapon: the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution won. He backed off, begrudgingly letting me go through immigration with my husband -- just like every other couple.