Thousands of unhappy LGBT couples and families are deciding this week if they can hold out for a miracle to happen when the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, now that they are deliberately not included in immigration reform.
Estimates range from 30,000 couples and perhaps 25,000 children affected by the news from the U.S. Senate when the “Gang of 8” (4 Republicans and 4 Democrats) caved into conservative pressure to exclude an important amendment for LGBT families.
It is still shocking to me to see how easily our LGBT supportive political leaders caved in so easily to the threat that the whole immigration reform process would collapse if it included our country’s binational couples. Their numbers appear so small in the face of perhaps 12 million residents who live here illegally, but it is the symbolic gesture from Christian conservatives that is so damaging and personally hurtful to so many of us.
By making our bi-national LGBT families the target of the most heinous form of discrimination, we also raise their love, commitment and sacrifice to a new level. Never before has this invisible minority achieved so much. LGBT presence and power, to become such a focal and polarizing issue, is also quite amazing right now. This wicked decision is yet another nail in the coffin to diehard religiously-castrated Republicans who are desperate to court the Latino electorate, but it will eventually backfire. Everyone who has experienced some form of discrimination is diminished by this kind of scapegoat political posturing. The decision also hurts LGBT Republicans and recent attempts to support marriage equality.
Two stories – the impact of this cultural vandalism
I know two couples who will spend this weekend wondering what to do and whether they can ever live as a couple in the land where at least one of them was born.
One couple are my neighbors and live six months in our condo complex in San Diego and the other six months are spent in Europe. For some, this may sound idyllic, but for my friends, it is a painful reality forced upon their relationship because the non-American partner is not allowed to remain here past six months. One partner is older than the other and ran into significant health issues last year and the crisis of where to live to secure not only consistent medical care but to be in a facility where the other partner could also live close by and have access?
Ironically, the older partner is one of the first openly gay diplomats for this country and has a distinguished public service career. He was appointed by George W. Bush, but his connections and resources are not worth a damn in a climate of open discrimination against them and thousands of others. They have been together for most of their lives, and are legally married, but again, this does not affect their status as second-class temporary and tax-paying residents.
This recent decision may force them to make Europe their full-time home. They are fortunate in that they don’t not have to work, but imagine if one of them was employed here and the other could not be. It would be difficult for any heterosexual married couple to live as nomads in a twilight zone of non-citizenry. Love is more powerful than nationalism and these couples have intensely strong relationships that most of us can only admire.
A second bi-national couple also went through a very difficult couple of years following 9/11. Another Republican business leader tried everything possible to ensure his partner could stay in the USA when his student visa expired and he was forced to return to Spain. My friend’s connections in Washington also did not help and in a final show of protest he sold his Orange County home and business and moved to Spain where he has lived very happily for the last decade.
Here was a fellow Episcopalian, a devout Christian and American conservative patriot who had to leave home to be with the one he loves. I recently met another couple who left California and moved their business to New Zealand where LGBT partners are welcomed and their marriages are on an equal par with heterosexual families. Can America afford to lose good people through this brain drain and economic upheaval that these kinds of inequalities perpetuate?
Cutting the legs of LGBT global initiatives from our State Department
The recent decision by our legislators to exclude LGBT families not only has domestic economic and moral implications, but it also undermines our leadership on the global stage for human rights and LGBT equality around the world.
We can erase Secretary Hillary Clinton’s famous speech that gay rights are human rights and we can no longer point the finger at any country for treating LGBT people as second-class citizens. We need to shut up and look at what we are doing right here. This has enormous implications to millions of LGBT people around the world who are also victims to the religious forces that we are now pushing against. If we see this sectarianism (which is religiously motivated) through the lens of providing HIV services for LGBT people, we are seeing the disconnect between what countries are saying they are going to do to reduce HIV infection in the LGBT and men who have sex with men (MSM) communities, and the abysmal record of funding them.
A report from amfAR, released this week, shows the effects of religiously motivated exclusion from funding HIV prevention and health services in a southern African region which is also happening a global scale. The research shows the appallingly small contribution PEPFAR and USAID funds are making to LGBT organizations. Even countries like the USA is providing funding for many of these countries to reach these vulnerable populations, but the money is held up or diverted by the same kinds of bigots who threw LGBT bi-national couples under the bus this week.
Maybe this is also a kind of wake-up call and moment where we can see the connection between national and international effects of religiously motivated homophobia and sectarianism and how it hurts even members of the Republican Party own membership. My heart breaks for my friends and each have chosen different ways to bear a cross that most of us could not bear indefinitely.
RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.