Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Out4Immigration Goes to Washington, Headlines LGBT Immigration Panel in San Francisco

Out4Immigration is an all-volunteer, grassroots group made up of people in same-sex binational relationships and our supporters. We typically raise a small amount of money each year to cover the costs of sending volunteers like Gina Caprio to Washington DC for the PFLAG National Conference last month.

Gina took part in a panel discussion at the conference that also included author Judy Rickard ("Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law") and Immigration Equality. The panel took the opportunity to educate PFLAG members about same-sex binational couples. Once again, we were reminded that even LGBT people and our strongest allies often do not know the difficulties faced by LGBT Americans with foreign partners.

Gina spent 2 days at the conference and did a great deal of outreach work from our information table. She had many conversations with people who wanted to know more about same-sex binationals and how they could help. One conversation in particular stuck out - Betty DeGeneres - Ellen's mom - introduced herself and spoke with Gina for several minutes.

Yes - we know Portia has her green card - but will Betty remind Ellen that getting a green card is not that simple for most foreign partners of gay and lesbian Americans? We hope so!

While in DC, Gina also attended an official briefing with Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA-15), sponsor of the Reuniting Families Act. Read all about that experience in Gina's column.

This Monday night, Erik Schnabel, another Out4Immigration volunteer, organized a panel discussion on LGBT immigration and the faith community in San Francisco. The panel included Erik, Chris Barnett (also an Out4Immigration volunteer), Blanca Hernandez (a DREAM Activist), Father Richard Smith of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist and Rachel Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality. Kathy Drasky, another long-time Out4Immigration volunteer stepped up to moderate.

Erik and Chris shared their stories as the respective halves in same-sex binational relationships. The crowd was genuinely moved to hear the struggles these two men have endured over many years to keep their families together. (Erik, Chris and Kathy all shared their stories with their partners earlier this year in the DeVote Campaign's video about same-sex binational couples).

Blanca then talked about life as a DREAM Activist and the number of LGBTQ youth who are leading the movement. Father Richard discussed the role of religious leaders and church members in assisting the undocumented - and the awareness that LGBT people often straddle both groups. His parish, in particular, has a lot of LGBT and immigrant members and obviously, some are LGBT immigrants facing unique challenges. Finally, Rachel Tiven talked about the role a national organization like Immigration Equality plays. Immigration Equality assists LGBT immigrants with asylum cases and has been instrumental in getting faith leaders around the country on board to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). To date, according to Rachel, 1,508 clergy members in the US have signed on as supporters.

Note: UAFA added two new Congressional co-sponsors last week - Rep. Janice Hahn (CA-36) and Rep. Christopher Murphy (CT-5) - bringing totals to 127 in the House and 23 in the Senate.

Find out more about how you can get involved with Out4Immigration as a volunteer by contacting us at If you would like to make a donation to Out4Immigration to help us cover costs like sending volunteers to national conferences and the printing of materials to distribute at events we speak at, please click here.

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