Guest Blogger

The Immigration Closet: A Perfect (Unwanted) Storm for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 02, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Catholic church, comprehensive immigration reform, domestic partner, immigration, LGBT rights, UAFA, US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Editors' Note: Guest blogger J. Todd (Tif) Fernandez is a volunteer activist with a Masters of Law in Human Rights from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and a JD and BA from Boston University. With a past career in state government and as a composer and writer, he's now pushing the Public Whip Count at, and "Comprehensive=Inclusive Immigration Reform" with

Todd-Fernandez.jpgHere's the premise: It's quite possible that a full-out LGBT movement effort to directly support immigration reform could be the turning point in the conversation about human rights and religion in America.

Here's the strategy rub: The bottom line is that the immigration reform situation calls for a direct engagement with our main opposition: the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Finally, they are trapped in a perfect storm, if only our movement will act.

Here's the set up (for the uninitiated): There's no question but that 2010 is the year for the immigration reform movement, and there are huge coalitions at work. The key one: Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) is very active, and has serious groups at the top, like the American Civil Liberties Union. When it has organizing conference calls, 7000 people are on them.

The LGBT groups have a pending federal bill to allow Americans in bi-national couples to sponsor their foreign-born partner for citizenship, like straight people can. Effectively, it's domestic partnership for immigration ONLY. There's a lot of support for that bill in Congress and among immigration players and faith-based groups. It's called UAFA, The Uniting American Families Act, and the current push is to include UAFA in a long-promised, big ole' comprehensive bill to deal with the horrible inhumane immigration situation in America, still being drafted by Senator Schumer of NY.

All would be fine, except the chief fly in this ointment is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which is aggressively flaunting its power, blocking our inclusion in any so-called comprehensive bill, with unabashed gall. Bowing to this pressure, Senator Schumer told me personally that we'd not be in the bill, but that he hoped to slide us in later like some dirty secret. Barf.

Fortunately, the LGBT community is awakening to this stand-off and there seems to be a big effort to get everyone involved. The Task Force featured this topic for the key note at Creating Change in Dallas (a conference of 2000+ LGBT activists), HRC is hosting local organizing meetings in key states like Texas, GLAD is hosting meetings in Boston, Immigration is in full swing, and grassroots efforts through and C=IIR are in play; people are noticing.

It's also pretty clear the mainstream immigration campaign is reaching out, or at least being very welcoming, and the LGBT community is too. Frosting the grassroots efforts, there is a group of 4 student immigration reform activists walking from Miami to D.C. for the March 21st Rally, 2 of whom are a gay couple, in what's called the "Trail of Dreams;" and there was a caravan called "Road Trip for Our Future" organized by RIFA and NY Immigration Coalition, which had 3 very welcomed gay and lesbian riders, including your's truly.

All seemed to be humming along until this past Saturday when the Four Freedoms Fund hosted a meeting of experts and bloggers in NY to present the case on immigration reform - and why it is an LGBT & bloggable issue. Although reports are limited, that meeting got immediate flack from one of the only undocumented people in the room, for a variety of reasons but mostly because evidently a key presenter suggested that the national coalition, RIFA, will never support our inclusion.

Personally, while I'm not convinced that's the case, I see this whole event as the beginning of that conversation, not the end.

Regardless, here's some analysis that I bet didn't get vetted at the meeting as to why we should still care:

It's USCCB Response Time

This whole situation is presenting a rather perfect storm twisting US Catholic Leadership into a no-win situation of overlapping causes, problematic messaging, and limited options. Beyond these complications, there's an apparent disconnect from other major Catholic countries that suggests that anti-gay advocacy is not Catholic sacrament after all.

First of all, unlike any other LGBT cause, there is unusual exposure for USCCB in this matter because they are clearly and widely out-of-touch with the trend among major Catholic countries around the world that allow immigration domestic partnership, most of which have much larger Catholic percentages than the US.

To demonstrate this, here is a list of countries with LGBT Domestic Partnership Immigration Rights and their Catholic population percentages. By way of comparison - the US Catholic population is 23.9%, Protestant 51.3%.

  1. 1. Australia - 25.8%
  2. 2. Belgium - 75% - (gay marriage also legal)
  3. 3. Brazil - 73.6%
  4. 4. Canada - 42.6% (gay marriage too)
  5. 5. Czech Repu. - 26.8%
  6. 6. Austria - 73.6%
  7. 7. France - 83-88%
  8. 8. Germany - 34%
  9. 9. Netherlands - 30% (gay marriage too)
  10. 10. Spain - 94% (gay marriage too)

Soon to be added:

  • Ireland - 87.4%
  • Portugal - 84.5%

At this odd moment, interestingly, the USCCB also appears to be somewhat aggressively looking to engage us.

Here in NYC, Arch Bishop Dolan seems too eager to make his mark on our backs, and has been regularly gay-baiting, most recently gratuitously chiming in on the St. Patrick' Day parade's exclusion of Irish LGBT, and expressing his happiness that gay marriage failed in NY state.

Likewise, there's yet another storm brewing in Maryland where the Maryland Catholic Conference, the Archbishop of Baltimore, the Archbishop of Washington and the Bishop of Wilmington have been extremely outspoken in their opposition to this advance in equality. There, faith groups are responding.

Not surprisingly, street activists are increasingly ready to take direct action on this front.

But in deliberate fashion, Queer Rising-NY is just starting the conversation about how to carefully consider and construct a full civil disobedience campaign to engage on this front. The idea behind creating a full campaign, as opposed to a hasty one-off action, or a purely responsive-defensive action, is to actually persuade the Catholic people who are more fair minded and open, and to bring about a real change in position from their out-of-touch leadership.

Strategically, the Catholic church hierarchy is in a classic conundrum. In this storm, the Catholics are threatening to walk away from the coalitions if they support our inclusion. But this time they have no where to go and they have a horrible position to maintain in doing so because the immigration reform messaging is all about "fairness and family cohesion" - "coalitions and human rights" - and "comprehensive" reform. People instantly understand that it is messed up when the USCCB says "fairness for everyone but THEM" - "coalitions of everyone but THEM" and "family unification for everyone but THEM". Simply put, we win this argument because it exposes the injustice so clearly.

They are also caught because they are heavily invested in helping the immigration community and dedicated to this cause, and we are part of the story. We have over 600,000 LGBT youth and singles uniquely suffering in the current system, and over 36,000 bi-national couples who live the same fear and uncertainty.

We also have a lot of support among grassroots activists in the immigration cause. On the "Road Trip for America," all around New York state, every where we stopped there were LGBT people involved in this cause, as regional RIFA field directors, local ACLU workers, elected officials, and volunteers. RIFA organizers offered me a key platform addressing a crowd of 150 in Ithaca, and as mentioned, 2 of the 4 "Trail of Dream" walkers are a gay bi-national couple, risking their lives for this cause.

The Perfect Opportunity

Essentially, there is a not-so-sleeping giant waiting for the rallying cry and plenty of fodder for the conversation that a loud public engagement on this topic would create. Happily, non-gay activists are quick to understand, and one admitted to me that they were ashamed it hadn't occurred to them before that for immigration reform to be truly comprehensive it had to include us. Whatever the higher-thinking, by gathering with our bloggers, they seem to be inviting our controversy to the dance.

All in all, it is the perfect opportunity to force the broader human rights community to call the USCCB's bluff. The RIFA "Management Team" reportedly has lots of allies we can work with to force this conversation from the Center for Community Change to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also has one very exposed opponent of our human dignity: the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Arch Bishop Wester, USCCB Immigration Committee, Salt Lake City.

One thing I realized on the "Road Trip for Our Future" -- hearing the stories of how 12 million undocumented people essentially live in the closet, blending in invisibly, afraid of who they tell what, always waiting for one piece of information about their "status" to destroy their lives and families -- there is another closet in this country created by inhumane laws and human rights violations.

We all know what that feels like, and if for no other reason, we have to help end that bullshit.

Here's what we can do now:

  1. Get LGBT groups to call upon all of our LGBT Washington D.C. community to MARCH on Sunday 21st - with the LGBT immigration organizations (Immigration Equality, Out4Immigration, Make the Road, the C=IIR Campaign, and many others). Meeting spot will be announced later.
  2. Get involved in the discussions about how to engage the USCCB on this front, using all tactics from letter writing to direct action and civil disobedience, constructively. (Contact Queer Rising. A demand letter to AB Wester is in the works).
  3. Blog about the human rights connections and other political and strategic reasons we should care about this cause.

If you live anywhere in America, you can work on a municipal resolution for CIR & UAFA, help lobby on this, or otherwise join the mainstream immigration campaigns in your states. Email for guidance and support, examples of other resolutions and names of target elected officials. No city or town is too small to speak up for this voiceless community. Check out the full plan. Grassroots activists wanted.

The USCCB sees immigration domestic partnership as the camel's nose under the tent, and for good reason. It's time we did too.

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Excellent article on a number of fronts. Thank you.
I want to point out that in almost every heavily-Catholic country that you've listed, most have become secular catholics- in effect, realizing that the hierarchy doesn't speak for them, doesn't think for them. We're getting there in this country- the divide between liberal and conservative is widening, with social justice being the only bridge. The people will decide, but you're right, it needs to have ALL the voices.
In my opinion, that's a better understanding of Catholic anyway...

It is naive to think that we will get anywhere with the US Bishops. There are currently several bishops who desparately want their promotions to become a Cardinal, a more influential position in the church, and one in which they get to select or run for pope themselves. The archbishops of New York (Dolan) and Washington, DC (Wuerl) will stop at nothing to get their red cardinals hat. Something like Christian charity and justice will not get in the way, even if it means obstinance on the immigration issue at this time. They will do NOTHING, and I mean nothing, that in any way will piss off anyone in the Vatican who will then subvert their promotions to Cardinal. Wuerl has a long history in his antigay crusade. He was the Vatican appointed snitch who castrated Seattle's archbishop Hunthusen, who was prematurely retired because he was most supportive to gays. Dolan has been an ass-kisser for so long, that his lips are brown. Here in Washington, DC, Wuerl has threatened to pull Catholic Charities out of all activities if gay marriage passed. After it passed, he has been piecemeal getting lots of publicity on what cathiolic Charities is eliminating, so as not to have to give employment benefits to married gays and lesbians working under city contracts with Catholic Charities.
Remember that the Catholic Church is an autocracy, based upon pleasing the autocrat (the pope or his representatives). Rank and file Catholics have no voice on anything, their opinions are not sought or appreciated. Instead of picketing the bishops headquarters (where you will get deaf ears), you should select catholic parishes and try to reach sympathetic people going in and out of church on Sunday. Encourage them to withhold contributions on a designated Sunday, and to instead to contribute someplace that they might support that Sunday, not controlled by a bishop.
Aside from the futility of fightinhg their church, is this matter as written or proposed good public policy? I believe that gays and straights should have the same laws equally applied. There should be same sex marraige available to all, and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) should be repealed, so that gays and lesbians may benefit from an immigration application. This issue is close to me, since I had to maneuver a solution using loopholes, years ago, with my partner of many years.
The current proposal, without there being a marriage or domestic partnership, is too open to fraud, and thus bad publicity for gays and lesbians, hindering our efforts to repeal DOMA and to get same sex marriages recognized in the entire country.
Bottom line, this is a loosing issue for gays to spend time and money on with the Catholic Church. I believe in other tactics, such as the demonstrations that we saw in the Netherlands last weekend, when a gay man had been denied communion. The injustice of the church against gays is something that needs lots of publicity week after week with the parishes. We saw this with how nasty they were for decades on AIDS, openly gay teachers, gay and lesbian student organizations at colleges and universities, the rantings from the pulpits. Catholics are tired of not having a voting voice in the governance of the church, and gays can join with women (for example) in demanding rights within the church. If the church is not going to allow rights for gays within the church, you can be sure that it is not going to demand rights for us within society at large.
In every instance in all the USA in which there has been legislation protecting gays and lesbians, the church has sent reprtesentatives to oppose it. They are not going to change now. They will use the situation to inflame Mexicans , Philipinos, Cubans, Koreans, in the USa against Gays and Lesbians, saying that their rights are being hurt because of gay and lesbian demands. That is how this nasty organization works. Your proposal is counterproductive to the realities of the USA situation, as well as to the Catholic Church totalitarianism.

Naive doesn't really apply to cosmic shifts in humanity. Was it naive to think democracy might survive in the face of English rule? Or that Apartheid may end. The USCCB, like any institution on the wrong end of justice and love, will one day succumb. It's just a matter of time and effort. I love your strategy ideas about how to go about this. Please contact - and we can talk more detail and how to go about it. There is a new national LGBT Catholic group in the works. I agree we need an inside strategy. Sometimes the outside agitation fuels the inside conversation. It's time to think - and dream big. Love will prevail.

I am not at all optimistic that this is a good idea. Catholic gay/lesbian/trans organizations such as New Ways Ministry and Dignity should be brought in for comment. Unfortunately, the church's long history of oppression against the lgbt communities, and only approved lifestyle for lgbt persons being full celibacy, there is not really much to talk about. They support the ex-gay movement, conversion therapy, and even band together with extreme groups on gay opposition matters, with groups with whom they ordinarily would not speak on any other issue. They would be approving of lgbt sexual relations, by approving a spousal visa for our partners from abroad. This is total non-starter, I am sorry to say.

Lots of groundwork needs to be done, say by approaching the l/g/b/t persons among students, faculties, and administrators and then the larger community at catholic colleges and universities. Seminarians should be approached by e-mail and pamphleting on the street, to educate them. Maybe even consideration should be made to picketing or peacefully demonstrating and handing out public statements at every meeting of the bishops (they meet twice a year, and it is heavily covered by the press). There needs to be a permanent, sustained confrontation/dialog in the public square with church leaders. They will never talk directly to us, only down to us or against us. The public needs to be reminded that they oppose normal birth control practices of almost every type actually used by most Catholics. The public needsto know that their money has gone to support the intrusion of bishops into the legislative process, with bishops testifying many times all over America on reasonable g;bt protections in housing, employment, health care, etc. that the public supports, but that the catholic bishops claimed will doom America. They need to be reminded that many of the bishops live in the lap of luxury, with opulent trappings and vestments. The public needs top be reminded that most of the clergy does not do their own cooking or housework. The public needs to be reminded of the secrecy surrounding almost all school closings, almost all parish closings, etc. The public needs to be reminded that never once in any meeting of the US bishops, has a single woman been allowed to vote on a single issue. The public needs to be reminded that for generations, the bishops chose to be exempt from social security for the nuns who do all the heavy lifting in the church, and have left them literally begging in their old age for monthly rent, food, and medical treatment. The public needs to be reminded that in most catholic schools, the bishops do not pay a just salary to teachers. The public needs to be reminded that catholic workers in any catholic institution are forced to forgo neutral, impartial mediation or arbitration in their disputes with their catholic bishop employers, and instead must waive court proceedings, and possibly agree only to arbitration to hand-picked ass-kissers all selected by the bishop. The public needs to be reminded that never in the history of US catholicism, have there been more catholics, and never has the economic standing of catholics been better than it is now. Yet, many have quietly chosen to cease contributing directly to the church, and instead support other charities, which do not discriminate, and where they might have a voice. To fill this lack of economic support that they should have from their numbers, catholics have been in the forefront of pushing for "faith based initiatives" to get government funds to support their activities. Then they use the public media to spread hatred against lgbt persons when they can not fully discriminate against us, once receiving these funds. All this needs to be in the public's hearing, at every bishops meeting. Eventually, a younger generation may be able to change things if we lay the groundwork. However, it is wildly wishful; thinking that the catholic church will agree to change it stated doctrine in support of immigration reform.
The public needs to be reminded that once the church looses its financial support and eventually the participation from its membership, it goes to government to attempt to compel from the civil authorities what it can no longer extract from its parishioners. This has been the case throughout Europe. The public needs to be reminded that the catholic chur h has decided to take a page out of Jerry Falwell' s gamebook starting with Ronald Reagan, and insert themselves into government and into politics. They have given up on trying to attract followers by a message of love and responsibility, and instead are co-opting the politicians and the political process. The public needs to know how little responsibility the bishops have really accepted for the clergy sex abuse scandals, and how stonewalling, doublespeak, and lies have them regaining ground on that unsettled matter. The country needs to see the luxurious reward that the Vatican gave Cardinal Law, who is now a fat cat in Rome, and unrepentant for his central role in the abuse matters. The public needs to know that in the clergy abuse court cases, the church has argued many times that it is above and exempt from civil law, and that churchmen should not be compelled to testify or to possibly face criminal consequences.
Let's work in other ways with/around/against the catholic church, but not as proposed here. It will be a huge waste of effort.

However, immigration reform is not generally supported by the US public at large, especially in this time of job loss and recession. Even though it is a just cause, it will be a loosing issue for us, and probably tarnish us (lbgt) with the public.
Rather than work with the Catholic Church, I would suggest working with La Raza , the Mexican American Defense Fund, and other hispanic organizations, PROVIDED that they quit hammering against us in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Groups like this are open to change, and will make a deal if it is in their interest. Their members need to know that we will support them if they support us. Their members vote, and were key in the Prop 8 battle. The Catholic Church has nothing to gain by this. They are used to waiting millenia if necessary. Don't waste your time .

Bravo for reminding the public why this institution is flawed and needs to be held regularly accountable. As I read your comments, I was inspired for this engagement, not discouraged. You make a great case!

As for engaging La Raza etc. They have already endorsed UAFA (I'm told, and need to confirm), as have other groups on the RIFA Management Team. I agree this is the key focus of our lobbying specifically on UAFA and Immigration Reform - our long-supporters on the RIFA management team.

Here's that list: Let's start dialing:
1. AFL-CIO -- Ana Avendano
2. Agricultural Employers Coalition -- Craig Regelbrugge
3. America's Voice -- Frank Sharry
4. Asian American Justice Center -- Karen Narasaki (Already Endorsed UAFA)
5. CASA de Maryland, Inc. -- Gustavo Torres
6. CAUSA (Oregon) -- Ramon Ramirez
7. Center for American Progress -- Angela Kelley
8. Center for Community Change -- Deepak Bhargava
9. Church World Service -- Jen Smyers
10. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles -- Angelica Salas
11. Leadership Conference for Civil Rights -- Wade Henderson
12. National Council of La Raza -- Clarissa Martinez (UAFA Endorser already)
13. National Immigration Forum -- Ali Noorani
14. Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste -- Ramon Ramirez
15. Service Employees International Union - Eliseo Medina (UAFA Endorser already)
16. United Food and Commercial Workers -- Ester R. Lopez
17. United Farm Workers of America -- Arturo S. Rodriguez
18. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops -- Kevin Appleby


Please email - if you have ideas on strategy for approaching the Catholic community, like these.

ANOTHER UAFA SPONSOR from the RIFA Team - Center for Community Change (today). Kudos to Prerna's righteous indignation (which I know caused a stir), and our participation in the Road Trip - and other interventions I'm sure. Yesterday it was THREE, today it is FOUR. Keep up the pressure TEAM!

Some of the info in this article is inaccurate. For one, RI4A got flak for a variety of reasons, key among these for ranking oppressions. Two, the undocumented students on Trail of Dreams mostly identify as DREAM Act students and the campaign has NOTHING to do with RI4A. Homework check. SWER students like Juan and Felipe are part of a movement led by undocumented students (United We Dream) and also DreamActivist that has nothing to do with mainstream, multi-million dollar RI4A campaign. RI4A of course, has been trying to co-opt this voice and our energy/passions for quite some time. Anyway, their funding runs out soon so it would be interesting to see who picks the failed comprehensive strategy up.

There is no inaccurate info in terms of the intertwining of these efforts. RIFA hosted a call with the Riders and the Walkers I was on just the other day. They are very intertwined. I hear you that the Trail is its own thing - I didn't meant o blur that. The point is still valid: we are all over this cause. Tif

Prerna - I just noticed this was you. Hey! Great work on this. I'm defending your comments big time on one listserve I'm on. I just reread my description of the Trail of Dreams - and I didn't say this was a RIFA thing. Please reread. In terms of what you gave them flack for - your piece is linked, and I said "one" reason... You seem to also have a beef with the comprehensive strategy, I'm a firm believer in "both and" - so all the pushing we do for CIR, for UAFA in CIR, for DREAM Act - all builds the case for each and all. xoxo

I agree that it is a time waster even to think that the Catholic Bishops will even indirectly sanction gay and lesbian sexual relations, cohabitation without their brand of marriage, or civil rights in any fashion for gays and lesbians.

A writer above makes a good point that maybe efforts ought to be made to engage the various immigrant groups since many of them are in fact mainly Catholic. But it is true that these same groups were and are opponents of ours, and they need to become immediately involved in supporting our agenda, or else we drop helping them.

Finally, I totally disagree that anything will happen in 2010 on immigration. It is one of the hottest of hot button issues. First there will be health care, and then the economy.

The broader strategy point re the USCCB is that they are our main opposition and we need to have a strategy of engagement. There are lots of things that can be done, many suggested above by comments. We've left them out of our movement strategy too long. No campaign ignores the opposition.

I didn't say immigration will happen in 2010. I said that community is making a big push this year.

What we accomplish by joining this conversation - is to help make Americans aware of the horrible human rights violations and human indignities perpetrated by our Government. It helps grow our movement and shift the conversation in our favor.

There is a lot of momentum on this issue, and by engaging it - we can do what you suggest: call some questions about principles with our allies, which in turn, moves the ball forward, or at least clarifies the work ahead.

The struggle for human rights in America is not only an LGBT issue, and the sooner we start to operate with that broader awareness, working from principles, not only political expediency or pragmatism, the stronger we'll all be.

One reason that I think that it is a waste of time to work directly on the Bishops, rather than catholic voters or immigrant groups with lots of catholics, is that the bishops are so anti gay, that they have even banned gays and lesbian groups from using ANY church property to meet for any purpose, even for religious services. This is why gay catholic groups usually meet for whateverr purpose in an episcopal or protestant church. Good luck with your attempt, but don't bet the farm on the results!

I agree the main audiences are: the Catholic voters (particularly in this narrow focus, the undocumented) and the RIFA Coalition Management Team/immigration coalition members.

How do you think we can reach them.

Re: betting the farm, I'm betting my life :-) - but not only on this piece, or any one approach or strategy. Recently I heard "EOBA" "either, or, both, and" - this is my new strategy theme.

But we need people and groups everywhere to pick up the engagement with the USCCB, Catholic people and RIFA members. If we can stare down the USCCB on this one, it may pave the way for bigger things to come.

First, to get the attention of the USCCB we need to hit them where it their lacy little pocketbooks. I suggest a coordinated campaign to flood the IRS with complaint forms, citing the church's repeated interference in political issues.

We need to formulate a correctly worded text for completing the form, widely distribute it through the netroots community and get LGBT citizens across the country to fill it out and send it in. If we can 100,000 complaints into the IRS it will make the news for sure. When the MSM start asking the bishops for answers as to why comprehensive isn't comprehensive they will feel the heat.

Second, we need to pressure President Obama to issue a statement that ANY Comprehensive Immigration Bill which does not include gay and lesbian couples will draw a VETO. He said fierce, that would be fierce. And we should make the call for him to issue such a statement widely known and get it reported in media. Then legislators like Sen. Schumer would have the political cover they need to include the UAFA in the CIR.

Personally, I'm sick of being a second-class citizen; I want my lover to be admitted to the US, and I'll be in Washington DC on March 21.

Yey. Strategy discussion! What's the MSM?

We do need a strong legal analysis on the church's political work and their tax exempt status. From the little I know, at the state level "religious" organizations have a categorical exemption, meaning they do not have to "apply". Beyond that I've never looked into it. Who knows the details? Please email them to

I like the Obama demand angle, but there is a lot of emphasis on one person, without much cover on the ground for him. He needs it more than Schumer does - who is entrenched in NY State, and has no serious opposition.

Hey Todd thanks for turning me on to this piece. A great effort and really interesting combination of facts. Thanks You/ That said I have always thought that trying to tag UAFA on to Immigration reform will be a disaster. Look ate all the energy and effort it is talking to try and win hearts and minds of people who will not allow us to marry... etc.

Why are we subverting UAFA with this ridiculous run around to win 3 votes in the Senate? If and when a Schumer bill ever comes out.

All of Immigration equality work should have been be put into UAFA as a stand alone. But they were side tracked with this crap and failed at keep moments to do what really needed to be done.

We have been sold out a year or more ago, and now we have to suffer this begging Catholic Bishops to love us approach.

This is NOT an immigration Issue - its purely an equality issue. The ignoring of this fact has put our rights as American partners in jeopardy. Trying to sell this as an immigration issue has and will cost us dearly, especially for as long as we have A dem democracy. Because people like Schumer have already bowed over to the Bishops.

See my numerous articles on this issue at - my binational column can be found at

Hey Melanie,
I hear you that UAFA is an equality matter. But it is also "immigration domestic partnerships." Otherwise, we could just file a "federal domestic partnership" provision that applies to all federal benefits associated with LGBT couples.

As a matter of strategy, I am still not convinced that it makes sense to only have ONE. (i.e., only the stand alone, or only CIR). As we push for UAFA inclusion in CIR, we make noise and build pressure for UAFA itself. As we push the RIFA Management Team to individually endorse UAFA, with an eye toward inclusion in CIR, we advance the discussion.

CIR is a big deal. In politics and media, it helps to be part of the big deal. We also have a real interest as a community of over 600,000 LGBT immigrants in the bigger reform effort, which slicing off UAFA somewhat abandons in practice (though it need not).

Until someone can show me in a crystal ball that only ONE approach is the winning one, I'm going with the strategy theme: EOBA - "either, or, both, and". I think the "my strategy is better than your strategy" keeps us from working together when that is what we really need to do.

In the meantime, what do you make of the argument here that forcing the question on UAFA in the RIFA Team (first with individual members)is a good way to isolate the USCCB as a human rights opponent?

Todd say:-"CIR is a big deal. In politics and media, it helps to be part of the big deal. We also have a real interest as a community of over 600,000 LGBT immigrants in the bigger reform effort, which slicing off UAFA somewhat abandons in practice (though it need not). Until someone can show me in a crystal ball that only ONE approach is the winning one, I'm going with the strategy theme: EOBA - "either, or, both, and". I think the "my strategy is better than your strategy" keeps us from working together when that is what we really need to do"

Melanie Says:-there is nothing to slice off because we are begging to get it put in. Then once UAFA is in we will have to pray it does not get sliced out in the midst of deal making.

My Point is not to have one strategy. My point has always been that we made a big mistake at the behest and side deal making of immigration equality. The mistake was to put CIR as the engine that drove the train. The engine should always have been UAFA and UAFA only. Then with the latter the engine - That had we been revving the engine (UAFA) up at the most critical moments
the train cars would have followed a lot quicker. whilst doing that we would have been quietly behind the scene working on CIR and then UAFA could have had the opportunity to grow organically toward CIR- if and when it ever happens.

What Immigration equality did will be uncovered in a new Lezgetreal article which I plan to publish soon. It will be quiet revealing. I will wait until after March 21st if this "loose canon" named Melanie can hold herself back.

Immigration Equality jumped on a bandwagon of CIR way way too soon and did not do with UAFA what they could and should have done to gain traction in Congress. They used Shirley Tan and her family, with no real plan for UAFA, per se, other than to promote their CIR way too soon before it should have happened, thereby missing a unique and critical call.

I know because I was there on the inside and bore witness to their tactics. I also delivered Shirley Tan to them,Private Bill in hand; whom like many others they at first rejected, saying they could not help her. Shirley and Jay promised me they would fight for UAFA. On the day after the hearings - June 4th - IE isolated me from Shirley and surreptitiously schlepped her off to a Press meeting for RFA and put their 12 year old son in front of the Press Cameras. They knew I would not approve of the diversion from UAFA especially ONE day after the UAFA hearing.

So My friends- I stand by all I have said, because everything I have predicted - read my articles on Lezgetreal - has turned out to come top fruition.

Now we have an opportunity to go to Congress and say we have little acceptance and too much to overcome - that is catholic bishops to accomplish equality in CIR. Hence Congress must push UAFA now as a stand alone . That does not derogate from CIR at all - our inclusion ought to flow organically - without the subtraction of minimal and critical resources which we need to focus on UFA.

Okay enough - look out for my EXPOSE end of March on

I hear you. Our own lead organizations have more attitude problems and turf issues than they have successes to show for them - or qualifications - and all too often this affects their strategic judgment. There are also many conflict-of-interest issues involved in CSO (civil society orgs) and activism, including trying to own legislative strategy without adequate consultation with the affected communities - that are completely ignored. The bottom line is that the lobbying organizations don't know their place, or understand the nature of the fiduciary duty they owe to the broader community the purport to represent. The strategy is NOT their call, but they act like it is. Someone should sue one of them - to get this topic more squarely on their Boards' mind, and to force them into the public arena for an open conversation about strategy.

I take issue with two premises: 1. That we "must directly engage" with Conference of Catholic Bishops; and 2. That they are our "main opposition."

You give Catholic Bishops far too much power. We need to remember --- and insist that others remember -- the fact that in America we have separation of church and state. The church is not from where our rights as American citizens emanate. The church must stay out of state business. To acquiesce to anything less is to fail to uphold the Constitution and that is untenable. The idea that gays and lesbians “must directly engage” with them only has power if we believe it. I reject it and you should, too. And if Schumer doesn't than we should see that we have a problem with Schumer and call him on it. Moreover, we are not a Catholic country. No one religion has the moral authority over issues of legal equality. It is up to the people to decide whether or not our government is meeting its obligations under the constitution to treat all citizens equally.

Our opposition comes from an historic legacy that still permeates American society: we are a hypocritical mix of sexually obsessed Puritans. This mix was well illustrated recently in New Hampshire's Rep. Nancy Elliott reaction as she sat on a judiciary committee that had before it the issue of whether or not to accept a voters’ referendum to ban gay marriage (now in place in her state). Elliot went on at length about her disgust, fear, and fascination with anal sex, exhibiting her ignorance about the act as well as her personal sexual obsession with it. She also displayed outrageous dishonesty when she insisted that her (particularly ridiculous) image of anal sex is being taught to 5th graders in her state.

I'm sure you're familiar with the video -- it was a big hit last month on numerous sites. I think the tape is terrific in that it is invaluable proof of just who the perverts are as well does it expose the danger involved when discussion of our rights is permitted to descend into discussion of the sexual. We are all sexual beings and no one truly knows what others are doing behind closed doors. Just as it would be considered beyond the pale to speculate as to what activities straight people engage in, it should be equally unacceptable to make mention of what some straights may think same sex couples do. It is disgraceful and dehumanizing. It is inappropriate. And it is off topic: the topic is equal treatment, equal rights under the law. Period. Nothing less is acceptable anymore. Not in the 21st century when twenty-one other western nations (I count Ireland) extend same sex partner sponsoring rights and gay marriage rights are materializing all over the world as well as, increasingly, in individual American states. The horse is out of the barn. There is no turning back. If the Olsen-Bois marriage equality case in CA (Perry vs. Schwarzenegger) doesn't free the rest of the stable I don't know what will in my lifetime.

America needs to grow up. We've come to a watershed in history: we have fallen too far behind in the area of human rights to hold our head up as a great nation among others in western civilization. It is now or never for the U.S. in terms of our ability to get it. This particular problem of denying fundamental human rights and equal under the law to some based on the projected sexual fantasies of others -- not just those of us with foreign partners but in all areas in which we are being denied our full humanity -- is much more easily being understood and accepted by other western nations who are correcting their laws and policies to absorb us (exemplified in the areas of military inclusion and extending the right to sponsor our partners). And they are doing so not by kow-towing to the Catholic church. Not even in Catholic countries do they ask the church to approve of the secular advances they institutionalize.

In the Catholic countries where governments are recognizing as family units their citizens in binational same sex relationships these human rights advances are not happening because there is no resistance from the church. Rather, advances are being made due to the fact that political leaders are circumventing the will of the church leaders. They don't kow-tow to the church. Why should we kow-tow here in America where we supposedly have separation of church and state? Because hell -- if you'll forgive the expression -- will freeze over before the Catholic Church is going to agree to accord us our rights any more than the puritanical, sex obsessed among us will. But that is no matter because progress is always made despite the bigotry of the opposition, not because they come around and agree to grant anything.

Finally, the Catholic Church with its history of child sexual abuse and cover-up, and now the latest scandal of gay prostitution in the Vatican, is hardly even a respectable church to look to for guidance. It is obscene to direct gays and lesbians of all creeds and none to look to the Catholic Church for anything but apologies for its moral failing.

Finally, a last point. When you use the 36,000 figure to state our numbers you are using a number that is flat out wrong. Not only is it out-dated but also it was always known to be a serious under-count. It is a number that never included any others but self-selected couples who lived together in the States at the time of the 2000 census. This number continues to be used by timid conservatives in our midst who, despite having better information, purposefully low-ball our numbers and thus under-play our suffering. This is shameful, irresponsible conduct that can be analogized to what it would have meant to hide African Americans before enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 as a way to assure bigots that there really weren’t “that many” Black people and they didn’t have to worry that things would really change in America. Jon Stewart would have a field day with such an absurd scenario.

“One important issue regarding census tabulations of same-sex unmarried partners as a mechanism for accurately counting gay and lesbian couples involves the likelihood of an undercount...estimates suggest that the true counts are 10 to 50% higher.” (Gates & Ost 2004, §II ¶3). So, the real number of in-country binational same-sex couples ten years ago was actually in the range of 39,402 - 53,730.
This figure only included self-selected couples living together in the States. It didn’t count those hiding in the shadows in fear of deportation, or couples living together but exiled, or couples separated.

A more recent analysis of our numbers, using the same statistical analysis but accounting for the missing segments described above estimated the figure to be at least as high as 53,000 and possibility even over 100,000. See:

All one has to do is consider the explosion of the internet over the last decade to realize and acknowledge the fact that people now find partners in far flung distant lands and that obviously our numbers have mushroomed based on this fact alone. I hope you will show some initiative and stop using the outdated and sorely inaccurate number or at least accompany it with a caveat stating that it never included the bulk of us who are either separated, exiled, or hiding in the shadows in fear of deportation. None of us should be excluded. Most of us are excluded by the use of that number.

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Committee To Advance Equality For Binational Same Sex Couples