Not for Anton Tanumihardja and his partner, Brian Andersen. Not to the United States Government. Anton and Brian are among the 30,000 LGBT binational couples struggling to stay together, while the Department of Homeland Security works to tear them apart.
Anton and Brian's story came to my attention via Newsworks yesterday. There's is a common story I hear in my immigration advocacy. Visitor comes to America, finds a life, find love, options run out, faces deportation. In Anton's case, he came from Indonesia, and that makes his return especially dangerous. He's applied for asylum, but has not yet had it granted and the clock is ticking down. From Newsworks:
"He is triply vulnerable as a gay man who is ethnically Chinese and non-Muslim, he's less likely to be able to get any kind of protection from police or any authorities, all of whom are members of the dominant ethnicity and dominant religion," says Soloway, who noted that Anton has no criminal record.
The straight-forward solution for a heterosexual couple is get married, start the paperwork. That's not an option for Anton and Brian or any gay people. Even if they got married in a state that allows it, the Federal Government will not respect that marriage as valid. They remain, in the eyes of the law, strangers.
Not every country is eligible for LGBT asylum applications as Indonesia is, and even among those who are DHS can be stingy about granting them. A comprehensive look at the legal options can be found here.
His Representative Bob Brady has sent a letter of support to immigration services. These cases sometimes find relief in extraordinary measures, as when Senator Kerry went to bat for a couple in Massachusetts and obtained a stay. But usually, they do not. Most couples do not have the means or the connections to fight. So many must give up. So many American LGBT cititzens bid farewell to their home country.
Ironically, many can find themselves welcomed in other countries as the gay partner of a citizen, another example of the US's lagging behind other western nations in recognizing gay rights. This is the case with Glenn Greenwald, who cannot bring his partner here, but would find himself, as a gay partner, welcomed by Brazil. Glenn was recently hospitalized and my first thought was, "And if he's in the US right now, his partner can't even come up to visit." I was struck by a profound sadness imagining they were thousands of miles from each other at a time a crisis. This are times you want, need and crave the love and support of your partner.
The issue hits close to home here. Daily Kos' SmellyBeast faces such a choice. She has chronicled her own struggle with this issue, here: "Desperate Measures" and "Planning my Ta-Ta For Now Tour." She makes the difficult choice between love and country.
Which brings us back to our title. Love doesn't matter to these individuals. Love doesn't conquer all. State marriage certificates don't matter. The United States Government turns a blind eye to both love and marriage. The partner you may have shared years with, raised children with, shared a home, is legally a stranger, and has no right to petition for your residency in this country.
But outside DC's bubble--where the mandate rarely veers from serving corporations--love does matter. To these 30,000 couple struggling to keep their families intact, love matters above all else. LGBT relationships do matter and it's past time our Government caught up to that reality. It isn't OK for it to keep continuing doing this because, well, that's the way it is, that's the way it's always been.
Send a Valentine to Congress today. Immigration Equality makes it easy, if your rep isn't on your speed dial.
Tell them the love that binds LGBT families is no different than the love that binds every family. Get rid of the Defense of Marriage Act that forbids the DHS to recognize these couples, some lawfully wedded. Pass Uniting American Families Act that would allow LGBT citizens to petition for residency status for their partners.
Also: Help us out, by taking just 120 seconds to Click This Link and vote for Rhode Island to be the next state polled by Public Policy Polling. We could use some good news coming out of a reputable pollster right now about marriage equality, just as they are about to vote. Ask your friends to do so too. We're behind Maine, but not by much.
The blog Stop the Deportations is an excellent source for keeping tabs on this and other stories as well.
Update: A nice Valentine's Day gift to the gay community, we picked up another sure vote in Maryland for Marriage Equality:
Sen. Edward Kasemeyer said this afternoon that he will support the controversial same-sex marriage bill, giving the measure 22 of the 24 votes it would need to clear the senate.
YAY! The wind is blowing in the right direction in that state. I'm personally hoping the momentum moves up the Seacoast to New York and Rhode Island this year. Fingers crossed.