Same-sex, bi-national gripe

I’m in pretty much the same situation, although I just don’t see it as being as simple as many gay people imply. Because:

1. Lots of straight people can’t get their married partners into the US because of lots of other restrictive immigration laws. My cousin, for example, couldn’t get a visa for his wife until he had a well-paying job, and the only job available to him that paid enough was the military. He was then promptly shipped to Iraq.

2. It isn’t easy to live in the same country, often because of things the law doesn’t even touch. I’m going back to the US for grad school because France’s system is fucked up, but Alberto could never find work in the US (he’s a playwright and an actor… in French).

3. I don’t really see why LGBT or straight people who aren’t in a conjugal relationship with a US citizen should be excluded from living in the US, which is the implication that goes with saying that these specific non-US citizens should be allowed in. The problem is that our immigration system is far to restrictive of everyone, and making it easier to get in for everyone would also help LGBT people.

4. Tying the material benefits of immigration to marriage forces people into marriage, which should be considered a tragedy, not a victory, for freedom. I’m not just talking about fake marriages, but people like my brother and sister-in-law who had to go down the marriage route even though they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten married at that point in time.

5. Tying the material benefits of immigration to being in a conjugal relationship is just begging for abuse. If you knew that the end of your relationship meant that you didn’t just lose your partner but also your home, your city, your friends, your career, your health care coverage, your social/support network, and almost your whole life while your partner would just ask you to move out, then the way you experience your relationship would be a little different. The government shouldn’t tell one person in a relationship that they can do whatever they want to the other person since that other person can be deported if they complain. (Everyone only wants to think about happy smiling couples, but not every relationship is like that. Being an adult requires recognizing that fact.)

6. The material benefits of immigration also cheapen the relationship: this relationship might no longer be working for me, but if I hold out for 3 more years I can apply for a long-term visa independent of marital status. Why does the government try to promote ugly relationships like that?

Yes, all other things being equal it’s better to have the same laws for same-sex couples that govern opposite-sex couples.

But a big reason immigration systems in modern wealthy nations work so poorly is because the voters in that country rarely interact with its immigration system and therefore barely have any knowledge of just how difficult it can be to get the right papers and keep getting the right papers. The lack of same-sex partner sponsorship has forced a small and vocal part of the US population (people like Glenn Greenwald) to face the reality of how hard it is to come to the US in 2012 (much harder than it was just two or three decades ago), and allowing them into the fast line while lots of others will still be stuck – people with plenty of perfectly valid reasons for wanting to live in the US, including working class and poor binational same-sex couples – means that some potential for deep changes to the immigration system will be been lost.

None of this is a reason to keep DOMA around. It’s something else to think about while LGBT US citizens are willing to consider the way their immigration system functions before it’s completely forgotten and assumed to be all better.


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