Senator Feinstein’s Emergency Bill Saves Same-Sex Couple from Deportation

Media Contacts:

Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 415-608-5526, amos@out4immigration.org

Chris Waddling, Marriage Equality USA 415-810-7556, binational@marriageequality.org

San Francisco, CA—April 23, 2009—Because federal immigration law does not currently allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners, it took an emergency bill introduced on the Senate floor yesterday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to keep one same-sex binational couple and their family together in the United States.

Jay Mercado, an American woman and Shirley Tan, her Filipino partner, live in Pacifica, California with their 12-year-old twin sons, both American citizens. Shirley had been ordered to appear for deportation on May 10, but the emergency bill will keep this family together at least through 2010.

Their well-documented case was initially brought to the attention of Molly McKay, Media Director for Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), just over a month ago. Immediately, activists from around the country, including those from MEUSA, Out4Immigration, Immigration Equality and Love Exiles, took up the cause and pleaded with elected officials for help. In the month that followed, the story lit up the blogosphere, was written about in the San Jose Mercury News, and gained national prominence as a feature article in the April 20 edition of People Magazine. “Those of us who have followed this case closely are overjoyed for this family. But this case highlights the need for Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) – legislation that has been languishing for 10 years – and would help the estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans in a loving and committed relationship with a foreign partner stay together in the U.S.,” said Amos Lim, co-founder of Out4Immigration.

”They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, it took a village to help create what feels like nothing short of a miracle for this family. Senator Feinstein and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) have renewed our faith and hope that fair-minded Americans are finally stepping forward to help LGBT Americans enjoy the freedoms and protections extended to all other families” said McKay. “But Shirley and Jay are just one example of the thousands of families that face a similar peril. We thank Senator Feinstein for her extraordinary act and call on her to please co-sponsor the UAFA. Now is the time to move forward on equality. Please call and thank Senator Feinstein at (202) 224-3841 and urge her to help the thousands of families standing right behind Jay and Shirley.”

“This is a family who tried everything to stay together but still ended up nearly getting torn apart by our unfair and discriminatory federal laws that deny equality for LGBT Americans,” said Chris Waddling, Bi-National Couples Outreach Director for Marriage Equality USA. “Senator Feinstein has done a noble thing in submitting a private bill to save this family, but her next step must be to sign on as a co-sponsor of UAFA, so that this kind of extraordinary action is never again required”

“Each of us did one or two things that we could do. And for that moment, we gave up feeling powerlessness, stopped being resigned and cynical. We know we will wake up again tomorrow as second-class citizens in the eyes of US federal law. And all we can do is take one more step. It is the only way we will win. It's up to us,” said Martha McDevitt-Pugh, founder of Love Exiles and a US citizen forced to leave the country to stay with her wife and live in the Netherlands.

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), re-introduced in February 2009 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would add the words “or permanent partner” to existing immigration law wherever the word “spouse” appears. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits gay and lesbian Americans from accessing equal immigration rights, along with 1,137 other rights that come with a federally recognized marriage. The UAFA currently has 97 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate. Ironically, Senator Feinstein is not one of them.

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For more information: Shirley Tan Deportation Stayed Through 2010: http://immigrationequality.org/blog/?p=882

Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org

Marriage Equality USA (MESUA): http://www.marriageequality.org/

Love Exiles: http://www.loveexiles.org/

The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR01024:@@@P

The Uniting American Families Act (S.424): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN0424:

Human Rights Watch Report: Family Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under US Law: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/us0506/

Out4Immigration is a national grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current US immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in this country. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org.

Founded in 1998, Marriage Equality USA is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to secure legally recognized civil marriage equality for all, at the federal and state level, without regard to gender identity or sexual orientation. For more information, go to www.marriageequality.org, or contact: Molly McKay, Media Director, 510-332-0872, media@marriageequality.org.

The Love Exiles Foundation supports GLBT couples who have chosen or are considering exile in order to be together and works for human rights for same-sex couples and families. Love Exiles supports these families and educates the public about the issues same-sex couples face. There are Love Exiles groups in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. For more information, to join a group, or to volunteer, contact Martha McDevitt-Pugh at loveexiles@xs4all.nl

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