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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for March, 2010

Schumer Argues for LGBT Incusion in Immigration Reform

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2010

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate reports that Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to some of his LGBT constituents in New York indicating that he would support provisions uniting LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform:

The failure to recognize permanent partners in the application for legal permanent residency is a major concern for many Americans. I share this concern and am a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act of 2009, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents. I support this principle of immigration reform and I am working on introducing a comprehensive package that would address this issue along with a host of immigration issues, including a pathway to legalization, the future flow of immigrants and border enforcement measures.

He added that he believes the only way to enact meaningful reform is through comprehensive legislation rather than piecemeal bills.

Update: While Schumer’s support for UAFA is welcome, BTB’s Gabriel Arana notes several problems with proposed immigration reforms in general.

Administration Refuses to Help Gay Asylum Seeker

Timothy Kincaid

October 26th, 2009
Tim Coco (Left) and Junior Oliveira (Right)

Tim Coco (Left) and Junior Oliveira (Right)

Too often both our friends and our opponents fail to understand exactly why it is that gay couples seek to be treated with equality. It is not, as some anti-gay activists claim, to ‘legitimize homosexual conduct’, but rather it is to achieve the goals, rights and benefits that are essential to life.

Laws that protect married couples are designed with specific purposes in mind, and those purposes apply to same-sex couples as well. When gay couples are excluded from equal treatment, it is not just disrespectful of their relationships, it is a declaration that gay people are not deserving of the rights and benefits that heterosexuals take for granted.

And that is what the actions of the Obama Administration have declared yet again this week.

In 2005, Tim Coco and Junior Oliveira legally married in Massachusetts. At the time, Oliveira was seeking asylum in the United States, having been subjected to abuse and rape in his native Brazil. In 2007, when asylum was denied, Oliveira was forced to return to Brazil while the couple fought the legal system to be reunited.

They found a valuable advocate in Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. And, indeed, Coco and Oliveira had good reason to be hopeful that the Administration would intervene.

The judge who denied asylum, Francis Cramer, was a political appointment who had minimal experience with immigration law and was so blatantly unqualified that government watchdog groups were astonished at his selection. It was later discovered that federal judicial candidates had been screened for their views on gay marriage before they were appointed.

But Cramer did not only count Coco and Oliviera’s marriage as irrelevant. In his decision, Cramer made the bizarre declaration that while he didn’t doubt that Oliveira was raped, he “was never physically harmed” by it.

Recognizing the judge’s decision to be crass inhumanity, Kerry wrote to the Attorney General’s office requesting that Oliveira’s case be reviewed. Because asylum is regularly granted for far less cause, surely a friendly administration would intervene.

No. They would not.

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich

On July 27, 2009, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote a letter to Senator Kerry informing him that the US Attorney General would not be reviewing the Coco/Oliveira case because that “forced sex” is not rape (they were unclear as to whether the Attorney General limits his belief that forced sex isn’t rape to male-on-male forced sex or whether that definition extends to heterosexual people as well).

Kerry was, naturally, incredulous and outraged. He has sought since then to get Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse the decision of his office. He informed the Attorney General that he wasn’t asking Holder to act against DOMA, but to grant asylum on humanitarian grounds, just as the government does for thousands of other immigrants.

Attorney Genereal Eric Holder

Attorney Genereal Eric Holder

Holder chose to ignore Kerry’s efforts. (A/P)

The Massachusetts husband of a gay Brazilian man says his spouse has been denied asylum that would allow them to be reunited in the U.S.

Tim Coco said Monday that the Obama administration did not act on a Friday deadline in the case of Genesio “Junior” Oliveira, effectively denying his request. The Justice Department did not immediately return messages.

Let us be clear. Were Junior Oliveira to have married a woman, he would not have been denied residency in this country. And were his reasons for seeking asylum based on factors other than his orientation, I am convinced that judges and politicians would have found more than adequate compassion to intervene.

I am so very sick of this. I’m disgusted by a legal system that denies equality. And I am furious with an administration that does not seem to care.

Showing Christ

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2009

Christians speak of “showing Christ” to the world around you. Sadly, too often this is expressed in forms of self-righteousness and public condemnation of others. Frankly, I often think that if this is Christ that you are showing me with your arrogance, condescension, and careless condemnation of those whom you don’t think are as good as you, then I want nothing of him.

But some have found a Christ to show the world that is quite unlike the one whose primary purpose seems to be passing laws to impose religious adherence by non-believers. Their Christ is more interested in helping the needy, healing the hurting, and loving the loveless.

Such a Christ is observed in the actions of Christians in Worcester County, Massachusetts. They have become a haven of safety and help to gay men and women from around the world who are fleeing oppression and torture in their homelands. (Worcester Telegram)

For the past year, Hadwen Park Congregational Church has provided gay immigrants with food and money for clothes and rent, as well as spiritual and emotional support. Lutheran Social Services, which helps many immigrants apply for asylum, established a program to help gay immigrants apply for asylum.

Immigrants such as the Ugandan tortured for two days by men trying to get him to give the names of the patrons of his gay bar. Or the Jamaican who was beaten by crowds four times. Or the Lebanese man sent to the hospital with a broken neck.

The United States government allows those persecuted for their orientation elsewhere to see asylum in America. But few social service programs are available for these victims of brutality, and they are not allowed to work while waiting.

The church’s program is unique in the United States, church members believe; the Lutheran Social Services asylum program for gay immigrants is one of only a handful nationwide.

And theirs is no hand-off missions program designed to placate liberal guilt.

The church started by feeding the gay immigrants with its food pantry, then paying their rent and cell phone bills. Parishioners took immigrants on shopping trips for clothes and other essentials. Two parishioners offered to host two immigrants in their home. The immigrants started coming to the church, telling their stories, and connecting with people who don’t judge them.

Now the Christ of the Hadwen Park Congregational Church and Lutheran Social Services in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a Christ that the world could see much more of.

Texas Mayor Resigns For The Man He Loves

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2009

J.W. Lown, mayor of the west Texas city of San Angelo, has resigned in order to be with his partner, a Mexican national who does not currently have legal status in the United States. According to the San Angelo Standard-Times:

Lown said in a telephone call late Wednesday afternoon from Mexico that he has started a relationship with someone who does not have legal status in the United States. Lown said he did not want to take the oath of office knowing he was “aiding and assisting” someone who was not a citizen. “I made the final decision when I knew it was the right decision to make for me and my partner and our future – and for the community,” he said.

The mayor was about to take the oath of office for the start of his fourth term, which he won earlier this month in a landslide election. If he had completed his fourth two-year term, he would have tied for being the longest serving mayor of San Angelo.

Lown and his partner are in Mexico awaiting a visa to come back legally. Their wait may be a very long one.

This is not an unusual problem. Under current U.S. law, American citizens can legally bring their foreign spouses and other immediate family members into the United States.  But same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not considered spouses — even if they are married in a state or country which allows same-sex marriage. That means countless gay and lesbian, bi-national couples are forced to remain apart unless the American partner decides to move in order to join his or her partner.

The Uniting American Families Act is intended to address the problem by allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration purposes. UAFA was introduced in Congress by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

Lown has dual American and Mexican citizenship. In a statement to the city council, Lown said he and his partner will come back to San Angelo once his partner obtains a visa and if “the people of San Angelo will welcome me back.” If the comments to the San Angelo Standard-Times are any indication, it appears that a very large number of San Angelinos are willing to welcome the popular mayor back with open arms.

Another Jesse Helms Legacy Begins To Fall

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2008

President George Bush today signed the sweeping President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) into law. This bill vastly expands U.S. aid to combat HIV/AIDS overseas. It also carries a repeal of the so-called Helms Amendment from 1993, which barred foreign travelers and immigrants with HIV from entering the country.

While the travel ban is now removed from law, it is still in place as a matter of public policy. In 1987, the Department of Health and Human Services used its existing legal authority to add HIV to a list of communicable diseases that disqualifies HIV-positive visitors from entering the country. While the HHS is no longer required by law to keep the ban in place, it is authorized to designate any communicable disease as a reason to refuse admittance.

So far, neither the Administration nor HHS are commenting on whether administrative policies will change now that the ban is lifted. According to The Washington Blade:

Some Capitol Hill insiders have speculated that the Bush administration might decide to leave the HHS policy in place, preferring to let the next president decide whether to repeal it. That would leave the ban in place until at least late January.

A spokesperson for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Obama opposes the ban and would take action to end it if he’s elected president.

A spokesperson for the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, did not return a call seeking McCain’s position on the issue.

Why Marriage Matters

Timothy Kincaid

March 8th, 2008

Brazzil Magazine has a story about a married couple treated in an abhorrent manner:

Timothy J. Coco and Genésio J. Oliveira Jr. were forcibly separated last August when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ordered Oliveira to leave the country after a five-year battle to obtain legal status.

Though they are legally married in Massachusetts, the State Department treats gay couples with contempt. The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 declared that the federal government would discard 200 years of state-defined marriage precedent and recognize only those state-sanctioned marriages that are between a man and a woman.

But anti-gays should walk cautiously.

Separation from one’s loved ones is a fear that lies deep within us all. Indeed, the images of husbands and wives being driven away from each other was a powerful weapon in the hands of those who fought against the evil of American slavery. And as more people find empathy with their gay friends and neighbors, the forced separation of married couples begins to appear as the behavior of villains and a tyrants.

So I warn the bigots and homophobes: In your drive to “protect marriage”, you are behaving abominably and without restraint. But some day decent people will see one of your acts of inhumanity and say, “No more!”

And it may well be the forced separation of legally married persons that tips the scales.

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