News / USA

Same-Sex Couples Seek Equal Immigration Rights, with Powerful Support

Same-Sex Spouses Seek Equal Immigration Rightsi
X
February 22, 2013 2:19 AM
Americans who marry citizens of other countries have the right to sponsor their spouse for legal immigrant status. That option is forbidden to same-sex couples, however, even those legally married in one of the U.S. states that permit it -- because a federal law defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports on the dilemma that bi-national same-sex couples face. They fear the law may force them to leave the U.S. or tear them apart.

Same-Sex Spouses Seek Equal Immigration Rights

Carolyn Weaver
— Heather Morgan, an American, and Maria del Mar Verdugo, a citizen of Spain, were close friends for 10 years before they fell in love.

“Always in the beginning, we realized we wanted to be together forever,” said Verdugo.  She and Morgan got married in New York city two years ago with their friends and families in attendance.  “We knew our commitment to each other, but we wanted to make that commitment public, something that even in society’s eyes is a binding commitment to each other,” Morgan said.

They hope to begin a family soon, but Verdugo can’t receive a spousal visa, because she and Morgan are a same-sex couple.  She may remain in the U.S. only as long as her work visa is valid.

“Just beyond the challenges any couple has, we have that complete uncertainty and the idea that at a moment’s notice, Mar could be forced to leave,” Morgan said.

Most Americans married to citizens of other countries have the right to seek legal immigration status for their spouses.  But same-sex couples like Morgan and Verdugo, although they now may legally wed in nine states, have no such right, because of a 1996 federal law - the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

In another part of New York, Venezuelan-born Pablo Garcia and Santiago Ortiz, an American, face the same issue. They have lived together for 21 years and were married in 2011.  Garcia has not been back to Venezuela in that time, even when his father died, for fear of not being readmitted to the U.S.  He doesn’t even like to go out in New York.

“It’s a common expression in Spanish: ‘I’ve been living in the shadows.’  I’m afraid of being deported,” Garcia said.

Thumbing through a huge binder of papers - Garcia’s application for a spousal visa - Ortiz said,  “We applied for his green card, and we got a response saying they weren’t even going to look at the application because we were a same-sex couple.”  He fears he and Garcia could be wrenched apart.

“Right now, his mom’s not feeling well, and we’re very worried about her,” Ortiz said. “And two days ago, his sister called, and said ‘Can he call me, because I want to talk about my mother,’ and going through my head is, ‘Oh my God, is he going to have to leave?  How is he going to come back?’  I don’t know what would happen if he had to leave.”

Both couples are part of a lawsuit seeking equality in immigration rights. They have powerful support on the issue.  President Obama’s immigration reform proposals would grant married same-sex couples an equal right to sponsor a spouse for immigration.  The provision is supported by Congressional Democratic leaders and liberal Latino groups.

Some conservative religious organizations have sharply objected, however, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, as part of their opposition to same-sex marriage.  Republican Senator John McCain, a co-sponsor of immigration reform in Congress, has said the issue could doom all immigration reform.

In late March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in another case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which also bars same-sex spouses from receiving Social Security survivors’ benefits and filing joint tax returns, among other rights accorded heterosexual couples.  About 35,000 Americans in same-sex marriages to foreign citizens will be able to seek spousal visas if the Court strikes down DOMA, or if Congress passes President Obama’s immigration reforms.

Morgan and Verdugo said that whatever happens, they will not delay their plans to start their family soon, and they won’t be separated.  Asked how many children they would like, Verdugo said two.  “But we would like to start with one first,” she said, laughing.

Garcia and Ortiz are also hopeful, since a change they never dreamed possible has already taken place.

“It’s the oddest thing in the world, something I never thought could happen,”  Ortiz said of their marriage.  “His mother accepts it, my family knows about it.  When I was growing up, it was a nonexistent idea.  I always saw other people getting married, and that happiness was not available for me.  And then it was.”

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid