Vigil At The Monument – Join Us at the Washington Monument

A number of bi-national, same-sex couples and exiles will stand up to be counted at the Washington Monument on Sunday, March 21, 2010.
The Media Release (I can forward the .pdf to you, if you wish) follows:

Press Release: 3 pages

For immediate release: Wednesday February 25, 2010
For more information contact: zoeoka@yahoo.com

VIGIL AT THE MONUMENT
Americans From Across the Nation
Gather To Raise Awareness of Their Plight:
Unequal Treatment, Economic Hardship & Forced Exile

On Sunday, March 21, 2010, Americans in same-sex binational partnerships will gather in the nation’s capital at the Washington Monument to protest a situation that few Americans are aware exists. They are Americans who suffer human rights violations due to unequal treatment in U.S. law and policy that does not permit them to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners to live with them in the States. Tens of thousands of Americans are in the same heart-breaking predicament: they must choose between continuing their lives in the States or leaving America to live in exile — simply to preserve and protect their primary family relationships.

Vigil participants will carry pictures of themselves with their partners and represent binational families everywhere who are either separated, living in fear of deportation, or exiled in other countries where they are legally recognized as family units.

Twenty-one countries around the world permit their citizens to sponsor same sex partners: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. This list demonstrates how behind the times America is when it comes to extending human rights and equal treatment under the law to all our citizens.
It is time to take [the] constraint off the committed same-sex partners of American citizens.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009

Currently, there is a bill in Congress to correct this problem. It’s the Uniting American Families Act (the “UAFA”), (HR 1024/S 424), introduced February 12, 2009 by House Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The UAFA has 120 co-sponsors in the House and 23 co-sponsors in the Senate. But it is not moving fast enough for binational families who suffer daily. As human rights activists we are not satisfied with the way the bill is stalled in committee. Apparently it will be used as a political football with some legislators hoping to include the UAFA in comprehensive immigration reform but others hoping it will go away. Vigil Participants don’t trust that the contentious context of immigration reform will be the vehicle to bring them relief. We want to see UAFA pass as a freestanding bill or signed into law by executive order as quickly as possible. Alternatively, if the UAFA is to be included in other legislation we believe it would better fit attached as a `jobs retention/jobs creation’ measure in a jobs bill or other vehicle similarly less contentious than immigration reform.

The plight of binationals, as Sen. Leahy stated in the June 3, 2009 Judiciary Hearing on the UAFA is “unjust, cruel, and unnecessary.” Our lives are filled with havoc and uncertainty, loneliness and fear, economic sacrifice and for some — instability and financial ruin. We are literally forced to exile ourselves from our lives and homes in America, just to keep our families together!

This makes no sense as economic policy in a competitive global
marketplace.
Sen. Russ Feingold, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009

It is not in the economic interest of this country to force exile Americans. America benefits when it retains its citizens rather than loses us to other countries which is what happens when we leave and take our U.S. dollars, opportunity, and talent with us — sapping the vitality of the communities we enrich here at home to benefit countries that will welcome us, with our partners as family units. American homes are sold and the profits are put into real property in foreign lands. Businesses are closed, American employees lose their jobs, and opportunities are created beyond our borders. For those of us that cannot manage the challenging option of rebuilding life in a foreign country, relationships are destroyed and tragedy may ensue. A policy should not remain in place that causes wreck and ruin in the lives of Americans who cannot afford the extraordinary option of rebuilding life in a foreign country.

Family unity is economically sound policy for the U.S. because it keeps American dollars in the country. …The definition of `family’ is not restrictive and can and should also include non-traditional family units.
…The definition of `family’ should not be interpreted so stringently as to omit people who are in a loving, committed relationship but happen to be of the same gender.
Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009

This policy damages not only those families, but U.S. society generally. …Many of these binational couples are forced to leave this country, depriving our nation of the economic, cultural, social and other contributions these individuals could make here.
Christopher Nugent, ABA, UAFA Judiciary Hearing, June 2009

Zoë Oka is the founder of the Committee to Advance Equality: “We deserve our rights exclusive of immigration reform and our rights should come before that fight begins. The challenge to adjust as many as twenty million illegal immigrants and set them on the path to citizenship is a separate struggle and it’s sure to be a three-ring circus — at least as contentious and unpredictable as the debate over health care. Why should the rights of Americans in committed, enduring relationships be subject to the volatility of such a process without certainty that obtaining our equal rights will be the committed goal fought for to the end? The UAFA is a simple solution. It needs to become the law now. With the current state of the law our lives are on hold indefinitely. Passage of the UAFA will put an end to our daily suffering and allow some of us to come out of the shadows, others to come home with our partners or at least have the right to visit the States. For people like myself, it would avoid having to up-root our lives to go live in exile in a foreign country, the reason being that we’re not treated equally here at home, we’re not welcome to live out our lives with the one person most dear to us — our partners.”

“Until it happens to you, you don’t even realize it’s a problem — that people are suffering this sort of human rights denial and legal inequality. For all of the progress we’ve made, gays and lesbians are still treated as second-class citizens in important contexts. Being in a binational relationship demotes us further — it confers third class status for us and results in pariah status for our foreign partners who aren’t even permitted to enter the States as visitors once it is suspected that they have American partners. All you have to do is fall in love across the border and just watch your rights disappear,” states Ms. Oka. “It’s important to understand this problem for what it really is: a human rights violation and unequal treatment under the law. Uncle Sam is constructively booting us out of the country because our partners are not Americans. The need for love and the right to form family relationships are our natural, human rights. This problem is not negotiable. Human rights and equality are not popularity contests. We need relief now. America must stop forcing Americans into exile in foreign lands.”

Vigil at the Monument will occur simultaneously with a larger event, an immigration reform rally, also scheduled to be held in Washington DC on March 21.

American citizens in binational relationships are encouraged to come out of the shadows and participate in Vigil at the Monument. For additional information contact zoeoka@yahoo.com, founder, Committee To Advance Equality For Binational Same Sex Couples; http://ctae.open-board.com; ctae@mail.com

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~ by Thom on February 28, 2010.

One Response to “Vigil At The Monument – Join Us at the Washington Monument”

  1. Good work for posting, Thom. I will be there! My friend Elizabeth said it better than I can: ” Love has always been able to leap over the boundaries of gender and country; the ability of the law to follow love’s boundless path is long overdue.” We must see the passage of the UAFA, and the recognition of ALL families.

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