Archive | June, 2011

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

Catholic Church Cancels Funeral of Gay Businessman

27 Jun

Our Lady of the Rosary Church

According to San Diego’s LGBT Weekly, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church has cancelled the funeral of gay business owner John Sanfilippo.

The funeral mass originally scheduled for Thursday, June 30th was cancelled because priests at the church felt “uncomfortable” with Sanfilippo’s relationship with Brian Galvin. The two had been together for 30 years.

San Diego City Councilor Nicole Murray Ramirez, a longtime friend to Sanfilippo said:

“Sadly this situation is reminiscent of the 2005 incident when the Roman Catholic Dioceses of San Diego refused to say a funeral mass for the late gay businessman John McCusker.”

Murray Ramirez and other Catholic supporters will be reciting the rosary in front of Our Lady of the Rosary today at 5 p.m. to call for a clarification from the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of San Diego regarding the burial of LGBT Catholics.

HATE: Pride Float Tires Slashed Hours Before Parade

26 Jun

An apparent hate crime took place in the wee hours of the morning today after hours of preparation, dozens of Pride float tires were slashed with a knife in Chicago. The floats were lined up on Chicago’s South Side in preparation for the city’s annual Pride celebration. Some time between 8 p.m. when one of the organizers left and 5 a.m. today when he returned, vandals slashed tires on several floats.

The Windy City Times spoke with Chuck Huser, owner of longtime Pride float provider Associated Attractions -where the crime occurred.

The attackers broken in but did no other damage to the floats, and they took nothing else, leaving Huser to believe this had to be a hate crime. No notes were left.

Huser has filed a police report, but his main focus the morning of the Pride Parade was finding an open tire shop, where they were running back and forth to repair the tires.

“They didn’t want these folks to go out,” Huser said. He added that he has no disgruntled employees or customers, and that most of his workers have been with him more than 20 years.

The start of the Parade may have to be somewhat delayed while Huser and his team work frantically to repair the damaged tires.

Happy Pride! Take It Back.

26 Jun

There is so much to celebrate today at the 42nd Annual Gay Pride March in New York City. As you know, New York became the 6th and largest state in the country to recognize marriage equality for gays and lesbians. For many, this is something we never thought we’d see i our lifetime – but because of our hard work and because we refuse to stop talking about equality, something incredible happened.


Through the coordinated efforts of many organizations and thousands of individuals, we changed the minds of elected officials and their constituents.


While we celebrate this victory and the progress we’ve made as a community, we must do so with thoughts of the future in mind. We must continue to educate our friends, family and allies on the inequalities we still face. Even with marriage equality becoming a reality in New York, there are still 1,138 rights that legally married gay and lesbian couples do not have. Our bi-national families can still face deportation, federal tax laws to not apply to us and 44 states still discriminate against us. On top of that, we can be fired from our jobs or evicted from our homes in over 30 states – simply because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.


Please continue to use Pride as the educational tool it was intended to be. Wear your thong, but carry a sign while you do it. Pledge to call your mother or grandfather or best friend from high school and have a real conversation about equality. But most importantly, have Pride. Celebrate what we have accomplished and promise to commit yourself to winning our FULL equality – not for you, but for the generation that comes after you. We will have it. We will have it in our lifetime, but not without your work.


Happy Pride. Take It Back.


							

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

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All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

Cee Lo Green Tweets Homophobic Comments Following Negative Review

17 Jun

Cee Lo Green on this year's Grammy Awards

This afternoon, in response to a negative review by City Pages’ Andrea Swennson, Cee Lo Green has taken to twitter.

The review read, in part:

“Though Green has risen to be one of the hottest pop singers of the past year, his set at the Target Center failed to measure up to the fun factor of his recorded material. Green spent most of the set stationed in front of a mic at the center of the stage, barely moving an inch while he sang and flanked by two forgettable back-up singers and a DJ that was all but hidden behind a giant LCD display. “

Green, assuming the reviewer was a man, questioned if the reviewer was “gay” and “offended” by Green’s “masculinity.”

Some of his twitter followers responded with anger at his tweet and he issued a non-apology and clearly did not understand what could be offensive about the things he said.

Green needs to hear immediately from GLAAD and it must be explained to him that his response was not only inappropriate, but harmful. His assumption that gay men could somehow be “offended” by his masculinity intimates that he clearly sees gay men as less masculine than him. He should be introduced to the many gay rugby players, truck drivers, police officers,and fire fighters and be taught that gay is not equal to the stereotypes he seems to assume represent the LGBT community. And maybe he should consider a different costume designer while he’s throwing around his “masculinity.”

As a former fan of Green’s, I can say I am very disappointed at his irresponsible statement which only spreads further intolerance and ignorance. He must be educated on the fact that LGBT people come in all shapes, sizes and shades and they fall on every color of the spectrum of Green’s masculinity scale.

The writer of the review has responded here.

UPDATED: Will Sen. Grisanti Decide NY Marriage Equality?

16 Jun

Judge James Wilson

On July, 2, 1776, the greatest question of American liberty was posed to the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia. After weeks of debate, it had been decided that the vote to declare independence from England, the 13 colonies had to vote unanimously. James Wilson of Pennsylvania had joined with more conservative colleagues, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, Robert Livingston of New York, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Together, they successfully caused a 3-week delay in the vote for independence. Wilson didn’t feel that we were ready for this change. As a country, he didn’t believe we were “ripe” enough to be on our own.

When the time came for the vote that would forever change the course of our history, Wilson arguably became the deciding vote when Pennsylvania voted 3-2 to declare our independence from England. When faced with the question of what this country was about, Wilson saw that his vote could be the deciding factor between oppression and freedom. He chose freedom.

Today, the New York State Senate will again debate marriage equality after the Assembly passed it last night with an 80-63 vote. In order for New York to pass the Marriage Equality Bill, which would mean freedom for all New Yorkers to marry and be protected equally under our laws, the bill must garner 32 votes. As of right now, there are 31 votes and several undecided senators. With so many undecided Republican senators, it’s hard to find someone who will be a real leader and break from the pack to truly represent all their constituents.

Senator Mark Grisanti, (R) Buffalo, NY

For months now, Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, NY has said that he would vote against the marriage equality bill, but now he has declared that he is “undecided.” Grisanti is clearly wrestling with the idea and met with Governor Cuomo on Tuesday night to discuss the bill. While he has still not said how he will vote, some see him as the deciding vote on marriage equality in New York.

So over the next 24-48 hours, Grisanti will continue to balance out the weight of this important decision. He must ask himself if he wants to be remembered as a bold leader who bravely chose to protect all New Yorkers or if he wants to stick with the status quo, leaving his LGBT constituents to flounder in inequality. This is no small decision for Grisanti, but we can hope that he will take a page out of James Wilson’s book. We can hope that he will see that New York and America are more than ready to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal.

Stand on the right side of history, Senator Grisanti.

UPDATE: Last night, in a vote of 33 to 29, the New York Senate voted to approve marriage equality in the state. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo said to his Republican colleagues who were voting against the bill:

“The issue of same-sex marriage was never a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing.”

“As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m not here, however, as a senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background as an attorney. To which I look at things and I apply reason.”

“I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know I have struggled with it.”

“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, who I love, or to have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her”

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