The news that Lavi Soloway, long associated with the fight for same-sex binational couples to be together in America, had held off the deportation of Rodrigo Martinez, keeping him in Maryland with his legally-married husband Edwin Echegoyen, made me cry.
The last few weeks have given me more hope than the last few years have that same-sex binational couples like mine can overcome the pain and suffering U.S. immigration and marriage laws cause us. I am thrilled to see that people in government are listening. It means that we might one day not be seen as legal strangers by the United States government. Our relationships must be recognized. Our marriages and families, if not validated, continue the current status that we face. We do not have the equal rights our country espouses.
I now have hope that my partner Karin and I will no longer be geographic yo-yos. I can see a glimmer of hope for the couples and families with children I have interviewed for my book Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law. I feel like they can be together where they want, without fear and without extra expense and separation. I hope I am right.
Last year, my family was torn apart again because I cannot sponsor my partner for immigration to the United States. I tried. I had filled out the forms at Congressman Mike Honda's office. But the request was denied by the federal government.
So when her visa ran out in October, Karin had to leave. I stayed behind because my brother-in-law was battling his second bout with cancer. I stayed in America to help him and my sister. But before Karin could return, we lost John. When Karin finally came home, she had to endure more than an hour of questioning by ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — officers before being allowed a visit with me.
New census data will give us updates, but an estimated 36,000 Americans deal with this situation today. LGBT couples and families face being torn apart, being deported, living in the shadows or facing unspeakable acts when returned to their home countries if denied asylum here.
We are not legal strangers. Our families matter. We pay the same taxes and face the same challenges as other families. We want the same opportunities and promises that America offers all its citizens.
U.S. immigration law must include provisions for same-sex partners, the same as opposite gender spouses, or we continue to be discriminated against. U.S. marriage law must allow same-sex marriage to be recognized federally and in each state or we continue to face discrimination and second class status is maintained.
Let the news stories we have seen — and felt good about — these past few days be the beginning of a sweeping move by America to right these wrongs and extend liberty and justice to those of us who feel the sting of its absence - and right away!Note: Judy Rickard is the author of the book "Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law" available from Findhorn Press. The book tells the stories of 18 same-sex binational couples and provides and excellent resource list. Order the book at this link and enter the code OUT416 -a $4 donation will then be made to Out4Immigration.