Imagine that your beloved were being deported tomorrow.
He is not being deported because he is a criminal, or entered the country illegally, or for any valid reason, other than the fact that the Government decided that your marriage was not worth recognizing.
How would you feel?
On Friday, Henry Velandia of Venezuela, beloved husband of Josh Vandiver of Colorado, will stand before a Judge of the United States in Newark, New Jersey, who will likely tell him that, despite his legal marriage, despite their love, he is banished from the United States forever.
On Friday, LGBT organizations from across the country will rally behind this gay bi-national couple who will endure deportation hearings, facing the stark reality of still living under the Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama Administration has said it cannot defend DOMA in court because it is unconstitutionally discriminatory based on sexual orientation. It has also said that deportations should focus on criminals. And yet, here is the Obama Administration continuing to tear apart families, who have committed no crime, in the name of an unconstitutional law. President Obama, don't you remember?
In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a host of organizations will stand up and be heard -- including Stop the Deportations, GetEqual, All Out, Courage Campaign, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, and Queer Rising -- to make clear that these deportations of LGBT spouses must stop immediately.
LGBT Organizations Urge Obama, Stop Deporting LGBT Spouses
LGBT Community Rallies In Support Of Gay Bi-National Couple Facing Separation Due To Deportation
NEWARK, NJ -- On Friday, LGBT organizations from across the country will rally behind a gay bi-national couple who will endure deportation hearings, facing the stark reality of living under the Defense of Marriage Act. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, GetEQUAL working with a host of other LGBT organizations -- including Stop the Deportations, All Out, Courage Campaign, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, and Queer Rising -- to make clear that these deportations of LGBT spouses must stop immediately.
The rally outside the Newark Federal Courthouse is taking place as Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela face deportation hearings before the court. Despite legally marrying in Connecticut in August 2010, Vandiver (a Ph.D. student at Princeton University) and Velandia (a salsa dancer, instructor, and founder of a Princeton-based dance studio) are facing a nightmare scenario -- being ripped apart from one another at the hands of the U.S. government.
Due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, which discriminates against same sex couples. As a result, Josh cannot sponsor Henry for a green card unlike all straight married couples in the same situation. A loving, legally married couple, are now at risk of being torn apart with Henry's potential deportation looming on May 6.
Josh and Henry became tireless advocates for LGBT bi-national couples in the United States, all the while fighting to stay together and save their own marriage. Last fall they launched the "Stop the Deportations" campaign to raise awareness to the cruel impact that DOMA has on married same-sex couples and to challenge DOMA in immigration court proceedings.
"I never intended nor wanted to be an activist. I have to do what is necessary to save our marriage and to keep the man I love in this country," says Josh, reflecting on their seven month campaign. "On May 6 Henry could be ripped away from me, but that doesn't have to happen. The Obama administration can immediately stop the deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans. This would ensure that Henry and I aren't torn apart."
Their predicament and that of tens of thousands of other LGBT couples was thrust in to the spotlight again in March after the Obama administration declared they would no longer defend DOMA in the courts. Despite hopes that this would mean the federal government would cease deporting LGBT spouses, the administration continues to enforce DOMA tearing families apart despite President Obama's continued assurances that his administration is only prioritizing criminal deportations.
"These men are going through what no couple in America should have to go through, choosing between love and country" said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. "Henry and Josh a loving couple. America is better than this, and I urge President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to act now! Save this relationship and stop deporting our families."
Note: Jillian Weiss is a member of the Board of GetEqual.