From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall to Asheville, North Carolina: Becky and Sanne Fight for the Right to be Together in this Country

President Obama, meet Becky and Sanne, and their 2-year-old daughter, Willow. Becky, who was born in this country, is a middle school teacher. Sanne comes from the Netherlands, the first country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed. Sanne could have sponsored Becky as her spouse for the Dutch equivalent of a “green card.” Instead, they chose to live in America, where federal law refuses to recognize their marriage at all, including for immigration purposes. Fighting for their right to be here together as a family has become part of their daily lives.

Becky and Sanne settled down in Becky’s home state of North Carolina, where, last spring, a majority of voters passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage (and all other legal forms of same-sex unions). Gay and lesbian couples were already barred from marriage by law in North Carolina, but 61% of voters decided to enshrine discrimination in the state constitution anyway.

Perhaps you are wondering why Becky and Sanne chose to live where they do, considering that most North Carolinians do not see them as devoted and loving wives and mothers worthy of equal protection under the law.

For them, it was a no-brainer. First, they simply wanted to raise their daughter near the friends, family, and mountains they love. Plus, there was no way they were ever going to live overseas and wait for change to happen before following their hearts home. Rather, they were determined to be in the thick of the fight for equality, advocating for the kind of world any parent, gay or straight, would want to raise their child in – one characterized by respect and equal opportunity.

Becky and Sanne are living their lives unapologetically and by example where change is needed most. They are literally on the front lines sharing their story with whomever will listen, making their case in the most influential court in the land: the court of public opinion. They are as strong and positive as people in their position could ever be. But they are struggling not knowing if they will be able to reap the benefits of their tireless work.

After all, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still in full effect, ensuring that even though these upstanding and dutiful women are married, Becky cannot sponsor Sanne for a green card to live and work in the United States, as is possible for opposite-sex couples. Without a green card, Sanne has no legal status in the United States, despite having entered legally. Raising a family solely on Becky’s modest middle school teacher’s income is almost impossible. Both women are desperate to “root down” and plan their future, for themselves and for the well-being of their beautiful daughter. Instead, even the most basic decisions such as whether to splurge on a new kitchen table, are soured by the inevitable question: “what if?”

When you announced that your administration would no longer defend DOMA in federal court, Becky and Sanne hoped that you would take steps to ensure that they were recognized as deserving of the same rights and protections of all American families — especially the right to be secure in calling this country home. Like so many other binational same-sex couples, they know that you can implement interim solutions offering them at least a temporary reprieve from the anguish and uncertainty that haunts their every day. Now more than ever, executive branch action in defense of families like Becky and Sanne’s is an imperative.

As President, you have championed equality for gays and lesbians, including the right to have our marriages treated equally under the law by the federal government. In your recent inaugural address, you noted that “if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” The love Becky and Sanne share is inviolable, strong, and precious. It is equal and it must be protected.

Taking no action is inconsistent with the ideals fought for by brave citizens at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. If we are to carry on the fight for civil rights, every day counts. Becky and Sanne are doing their part. As President, you can ensure that their green card petition is not denied, but instead put on hold until either the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act or Congress passes an immigration reform bill that includes the gay partner provision you put forward.

You are the President who spoke of change. These are your faithful warriors. Help them get to the promised land.


The above video is the second in a series of short films titled ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA’ produced in collaboration between the DeVote Campaign and the DOMA Project.

Time to Get Personal — Announcing the Launch of Our Series of Short Films, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA”

Photo by Joanna Chau

When Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, came to the United States in 1989 as a foreign student from Canada, he could never have imagined that one of his greatest challenges would also present him with a chance to bring about positive change in this country.

As one half of a binational couple and a newly-admitted lawyer with an expiring visa, he went looking for help with his own immigration status. What he found was common cause with activists and other lesbian and gay couples. This empowered him to join the broader LGBT movement for social justice and launch a national grass-roots campaign for immigration equality. Over time, strategies evolved, but he remained absolutely convinced that the greatest tool for achieving victory was the personal stories of binational couples struggling to be together in this country.

Los Angeles based filmmaker, Brynn Gelbard, first met her Irish-born partner, Lisa, eleven years ago in San Francisco. By then, Lisa had already won a green card in the lottery. Over the years, they came to know other couples who weren’t so lucky, which inspired Brynn to help.

Through her project, The DeVote Campaign, she has been creating videos of people from all walks of life discussing what inspired them to fight for LGBT equality. For so long, binational couples were afraid that if they publically took a stand, they risked being torn apart. As the Obama administration introduced new family-friendly deportation policies, binational couples seized the moment and began speaking out more forcefully than ever before about the hardships they endure. Increasingly, their target was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that denies recognition of their marriages for all purposes including immigration and thus remains the sole obstacle to attaining a green card and a secure future for their families. Brynn jumped at the chance to record their stories and publish them online as a tool for inciting dialogue and change.

When Lavi and Brynn met in 2011, their decision to collaborate was rooted in the mutual conviction that exposing a mass audience to the unimaginable, real-life implications of this unjust law——the excruciating choices, crippling uncertainty and gut-wrenching sacrifices——was essential to mobilizing widespread, public demand for action.

On a shoe-string budget, Lavi and Brynn have traveled from Boston to Miami Beach, from Charlotte to San Francisco, collecting hundreds of hours of video of married lesbian and gay couples who are fully engaged in the fight against DOMA. These are voices of spouses who are assuming their own equality, who do not need a court or a Congress to tell them that their marriages are deserving of the same respect and, most importantly, the same protection under the law.

Photo by Joanna Chau

The result is “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,” a series of short films featuring these brave couples. The first to be released introduces Daniel and Yohandel, two young men who met and fell in love in Miami and soon found themselves searching for a way to stay together in the U.S. Yohandel contends with the profound disconnect between the ideal of freedom that prompted his parents to leave Cuba and the experience of second-class citizenship that he struggles with as a gay American. As Daniel and Yohandel share their devotion to each other and their determination to overcome the inhumane consequences of DOMA, we are left asking ourselves how such a cruel law could exist in a country that promises “liberty and justice for all.”

VIDEO: For Thousands of Binational Couples Like Jackie & Gloria, The Fight Continues For The Right to Be Together

by guest
Published on: June 7, 2012
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by Lavi Soloway, Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project

On February 22, 2012, San Francisco Judge Jeffrey S. White became the second Federal District Court judge in America to rule that DOMA was unconstitutional. The first such ruling came from Boston Judge Joseph Tauro in July 2010. At the time of his ruling, Judge Tauro was a 79-year old Republican appointee, President Richard Nixon’s longest-serving appointee to the federal bench. Tauro wrote two opinions that summer issued on the same day, each striking down DOMA as unconstitutional. Nearly two years passed before the appeals of Judge Tauro’s decisions would be heard and decided by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. As we all know now, last week a three-judge panel of that august appellate court ruled unanimously that DOMA was unconstitutional. The opinion itself was authored by Justice Boudin, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.

Two more Federal District Courts have also found DOMA to be unconstitutional in just the past two weeks. Yesterday, in New York’s Federal District Court for the Southern District, Clinton appointee, Judge Barbara S. Jones, declared DOMA to be unconstitutional in a case involving the now-famous LGBT rights activist, plaintiff, and widow, Edie Windsor. Last month, Oakland, California Judge Claudia Wilken also found DOMA to be unconstitutional in a similar case. In all there have been five rulings by four federal judges declaring DOMA Section 3 to be unconstitutional, and the unanimous federal appellate court ruling by the First Circuit in the “Gill” case, also striking down DOMA Section 3 as a violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.

What does this mean for married lesbian and gay binational couples? The argument for interim remedies to be put into place could hardly be stronger, as the fate of DOMA is wobbly at best. And yet the administration has done little to protect our families. We must keep up the pressure on the Obama administration to demand an “abeyance” policy. No immigration reform or LGBT rights organization is currently engaged in a national “abeyance” campaign. We must keep the focus on the harm caused every day to binational couples and our families. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for change to happen.

The fight is not nearly over for binational couples. Unmistakably, there is some considerable wind at our backs. Make no mistake: the Supreme Court will still have the last word on whether the Defense of Marriage Act, i.e. whether the federal government’s refusal to recognize equally the legal marriages of same-sex couples, violates the U.S. constitution. There is no certain way to know what the outcome will be or when that decision will come. It may be one year or it may be several years. Gay and lesbian Americans have put their lives on hold, spent their savings and sacrificed years of their lives, deprived of stability because they cannot access the green card process.

Americans have been forced to live in exile with their same-sex partners or spouses, simply because they are gay. Their struggle continues on a daily basis. Every day lesbian and gay binational couples are separated by thousands of miles and unable to be together; LGBT families are torn apart, with parents kept apart from their children by this unfair law, and there is something that this administration can do to prevent it. It must end now. All green card cases must be held in abeyance for at least a year until the Supreme Court rules in this case.

This administration has the power to accept all green card petitions filed by same-sex couples and put those cases on hold, thus providing legal status and employment authorization to every couple. Gay and lesbian Americans should expect no less from this administration which has said repeatedly that DOMA is unconstitutional. If that is true, then the President should order an immediate moratorium on deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian American citizens. The President should do what he has done before in other immigration law contexts when such dynamic change is afoot and a law is in a state of flux (you might be forgiven for saying that DOMA is drawing its last breaths.). President Obama should put on hold all green card cases filed by lesbian and gay Americans for their foreign spouses until the final judicial resolution of DOMA has been determined by the Supreme Court.

Abeyance is the only human policy to keep thousands of LGBT families, as many as 25% of whom are raising children, together.


VIDEO: Every day in this country, thousands of legally married lesbian and gay couples, like Jackie and Gloria, fight for something most of us take for granted — the simple right to be together.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government refuses to recognize, respect or honor their marriages for all legal purposes including immigration.

On April 4, Jackie and Gloria traveled to Boston to witness history. Sitting in a courtroom audience, they listened as judges and attorneys debated whether the Constitution guarantees their right to be treated equally as a married couple.

Less than 60 days later, the First Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court in the United States to strike down DOMA, an important milestone on the road to full equality.

Yet, for Jackie and Gloria, nothing has changed, and they don’t have the luxury of waiting until the ultimate fate of DOMA is decided.

Looking at these two young women — so full of love for each other and wanting nothing more than to build a future together — we cannot allow this cruel and discriminatory law to tear them apart.

(Video by The DeVote Campaign in collaboration with Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project)

Reflections on DeVote’s First Road Trip Collaboration with The DOMA Project

Brynn Gelbard, Lavi Soloway and Hanh Nguyen in Brooklyn on May 18, 2012

It’s been nearly a week since I returned home to Los Angeles from the first road-trip collaboration between The DeVote Campaign and The DOMA Project. From Boston to North Carolina, we interviewed seven married binational same-sex couples who are struggling to remain together in this country because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the recognition of their relationships for immigration purposes. As one half of a binational couple myself whose Irish spouse won a green card in the lottery, I could never have anticipated how profoundly this experience would affect me.

When I first started DeVote two years ago, I was motivated by the need to do something productive rather than wallow in my fury that the passing of California’s Proposition 8 meant I had to postpone my wedding to my girlfriend of nearly seven years at the time. My goal was to create a series of vignettes portraying the scope of humanity unified by the desire to eradicate discrimination against LGBT people. I also wanted to ensure that first hand anecdotes from this time in history were preserved for future generations. I did not see myself as an activist though, but as a writer and filmmaker who relished great characters for their ability to open stubborn minds.

Teaming up with The DOMA Project has been nothing short of monumental for me. I have never been so convinced of the power of stories to invoke change as I am now working alongside spouses from all walks of life who are refusing to keep silent and wait for laws to shift in their favor. Their unrelenting commitment to each other, despite never knowing what tomorrow may bring, fuels my urgency to help them ensure this fight is unapologetically personal.

When we look back upon historical milestones in the civil rights movement, the heroes we speak of are real people like Rosa Parks, who one day just refused to get up from her seat and move to the back of the bus. For countless binational couples, however, the fear of being torn apart has kept them from openly taking a stand. Now that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional by several federal judges and the Obama administration has said it will no longer defend it in court, there is hope where there was none before. Guided by their dedication to one another, these husbands and wives are claiming their power to change hearts and minds – the ultimate manifestation of full equality – by discussing how this discriminatory law has affected their lives and families. It is no longer possible for lawmakers, immigration officials, or the general public to deny that there are real people impacted by this injustice. The terms of the discussion have changed precisely because binational couples have come forward, demanding green cards and a policy that values and honors their love and their marriages.

There is one thing that can and must be done so these families are free to get on with the lives that they have so honorably fought for the right to share. When an American applies for a green card for his or her same-sex foreign-born spouse, as heterosexual couples regularly do without incident, it should not be denied. Rather, it should be put on hold while DOMA makes its way through the courts, or is repealed by Congress.

Shooting a video in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 19, 2012

I am forever grateful to these couples for sharing what it has been like to live in love with the constant threat of losing everything. Some have put off having kids and buying their dream house because they never know what the future holds. Others recount sleepless nights wondering if the foreign spouse will be deported to a distant country that is flagrantly homophobic, affording them no options but exile to yet a third country if they are to stay together. There are those living here without status who have faced the harsh choice of whether or not to attend a parent’s funeral overseas knowing it could mean a 10-year bar from returning to the U.S. Many children are growing up without one of their parents present because there is no way for the non-American to legally reside here. Imagine the mother who got a call from her wife that their son had gone blind after a sports accident. She had to explain to him that she could not be by his side because she had only just left the country and could not get back in as a visitor again so soon.

In honor of these binational couples and their bravery, I am proud to step into the role of activist, working with attorney, Lavi Soloway, to ensure their stories are out there for all to see, including elected officials, many of whom want to do the right thing, but need a context to do so. On behalf of The DeVote Campaign and The DOMA Project, later this month, we look forward to presenting voices that will never again be silenced. Here come the voices of change.

The DeVote Campaign and The DOMA Project join forces to publicize the plight of same-sex binational couples struggling to remain together in the U.S. due to the Defense of Marriage Act

The DeVote Campaign is excited and honored to join forces with Lavi Soloway and The DOMA Project to personalize and publicize the plight of binational same-sex couples struggling to remain together in the U.S. as a result of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When opposite-sex binational couples get married, the American spouse can sponsor the foreign born spouse for a green card to legally remain and work in the U.S. Married same-sex couples do not have this option, since DOMA defines ‘marriage’ as a union between one man and one woman in all areas governed by federal law including immigration. While the Obama administration declared that it would no longer defend DOMA in February 2011, no blanket measures have been taken to stop the deportations and green card denials that thousands of committed couples continue to endure.

There are an estimated 36,000 same-sex binational couples currently living in America. Countless others have been forced into exile, live apart, or exist “under the radar” in constant fear of being discovered and torn apart. Nobody should have to choose between attending a parent’s funeral or staying in the U.S. with his/her spouse for fear of being denied re-entry, but one real example of the unbearable reality faced by same-sex binational couples under the dark cloud that is the Defense of Marriage Act.

Please consider donating to our joint efforts to record and publicize these personal stories far and wide. Help us not only inspire change now, but archive these stories of true love and commitment for future generations.

DeVote is fiscally sponsored by the Independent Feature Project. You can make a tax-deductible contribution by visiting

Suffer the Little Children: Raising the Next Generation of Social Activists – by Melissa Kleckner

I went to bed the night of August 14th, 2001 a selfish, self-absorbed, scared little girl. By the following evening, however, my life was no longer my own. All of the worries that were stuck on repeat in my head, all of the melodramas that played out before me, all of the fear that kept me incubating in a bubble, all of that seemed to mean nothing the first time I held my daughter, Avalina Rayne.

Something happens when you have a child. No matter how politically tuned in you are, no matter how environmentally aware you claim to be, nothing raises your consciousness quite like becoming a parent. Suddenly EVERY issue is a fight worth fighting. Wars, poverty and homelessness, civil rights, the rape of our environment, the inequity of our educational system; all of these social injustices crystallize before you as you realize that these problems are not just someone else’s to worry about. They affect you. Worse, they affect your child!

As parents, we can continue to turn a blind eye to the inequities of the world we live in; a world that our children are set to inherit, or we can pull up our sleeves and get to work. We can do our part to build a better world for our future generations. What’s more, we can do it with our children.

I began bringing Avie to rallies and events when she was 7 years old. Before that, I used scenarios in her little world as teachable moments to explain larger issues of social justice in ways she could understand. The discrimination of DOMA for example, was understood a lot better when it meant that Uncle Joe and Uncle Bill could not get married. Eating a mostly vegetarian diet was put into context when we would visit Abner, the Yorkshire pig we saved from slaughter and sponsored at Chenoa Manor, a farm sanctuary in PA. These small moments added up to a social awareness that sadly most adults do not possess. Before my eyes, my daughter was growing into an intelligent, compassionate, worldly young lady. She knew right from wrong, and she was not afraid to stand up for the underdog. It was this concern and maturity that made me feel she was ready to get more active.

My child-rearing practices have not gone without criticism, however. Older relatives have expressed fear for my daughter’s safety despite my assurance that I never bring her to an event that I feel could be dangerous. Strangers seem to like offering their opinions as well. If I had a dollar for every time I heard some form of the word “indoctrinate” I would have more than enough money to send Avie to college. However, I can’t help but find this critique amusing. First of all, it’s usually lobbed at me by some opposing protester who is standing next to their own child (as was often the case in Albany during the week leading up to the Marriage Equality vote). Second, parenting, at it’s very essence, is an indoctrination of sorts. From the food we use to nourish our children, to the books we choose to keep on our shelves, the holidays we celebrate (and those we avoid), the noise we accept from our televisions, all of these…all of these are ways our beliefs and opinions shape our children. Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle? Wooden toys or a room full of Fisher Price plastic? From the first time we take our child into a house of worship, or choose not to have them take part, we are “pushing” our ideals onto them. When we enroll our child in a public school, private school, or charter, we are making yet another decision that will directly affect our children based on our personal beliefs.

You see children are born a blank canvas. They know no god. They know no hatred, or bigotry, or prejudice. They have no feelings of superiority. They come into the world with a vulnerability that forces them to seek the good in people as a means of survival. They are trusting and know only how to love. It is not until parental biases come into the picture that a child is taught to dislike that which is different. If that is not indoctrination, I don’t know what is!

Actively involving children in the push for social justice offers, in my opinion, a better educational experience than reading about past movements in the history books ever could. Empowering children to believe they can be the change they seek in the world by actively engaging them in that change means so much more than reading the sappy platitudes of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” Involving children in the realities of this world, as opposed to shielding them from “grown up stuff” not only develops their character, it cultivates their curiosity, builds their empathy, and instills in them the strength to stand up for what they believe in, no matter what. Moreover, it offers children the opportunity to show just how capable they are to think critically and formulate ideas. Far too often Western parents “put baby in the corner” by treating them as tiny beings too precious to think for themselves, despite the fact that research shows young people’s brains are capable of a higher cognitive functioning than we give them credit for.

At the age of seven, I chose to actively involve my daughter in the fight for LGBTQ equality. I did this to teach her that when the government tells a segment of its population that they are “less than” through unjust laws, the majority must rise up and fight those laws. As Dr. King said, “what affects one directly affects all indirectly.” It was important that my daughter learn at an early age how interconnected we human beings truly are. How our actions have a ripple effect into the environment and the lives of those around us. That no one is truly free until we are all free.

At the end of the day, that is what the fight for LGBTQ civil rights is all about. It does not need to be a confusing discussion about the appropriateness of what happens in someone’s bedroom. It should not be a question of religion or what one individual’s god believes over another. It has nothing to do with which political ideology is “right.” The struggle is for full federal equality, plain and simple. It is for the right to marry the person you love, and receive the same benefits as other couples. It is to be federally protected from wrongful termination of employment or eviction from your home. It is to safeguard our youth from bigotry and hatred in school. It is to ensure that all people, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or gender identity, are viewed as completely equal in the eyes of the law. When you put it like that, it’s child’s play.

My activism has ebbed and flowed since I was old enough to advocate for a later bedtime. I have marched on Washington as part of the anti-war effort. I have rallied in front of City Hall to fight the brutality of the NYPD. I have blocked traffic and been arrested in the fight for LGBTQ rights. I spent the week leading up to the NY Marriage victory in Albany, advocating for equality with my daughter at my side. She missed the last week of school, but gained a lifetime of experience. Together we stood in opposition to the personification of hate. Chants of discrimination and fear echoed the Statehouse halls. Men and women, overheated and angry, yelled at my daughter and accused her of not knowing what she was talking about. Supposed men of the cloth followed her around with the sole purpose of making her feel uncomfortable. When it got to be too much for me to handle, my daughter insisted that we stay. That it was the right thing to do. Throughout the week, Avie saw just what believers of social justice are up against. From the hate and ignorance masked as religion to the divisiveness of the political system, Avalina witnessed first hand many harsh realities of the world we live in, and she handled it with the grace and aplomb that many seasoned activists lack.

Standing in the Senate gallery on June 24th, 5 days after arriving in Albany, tired and wearing clothes that had been hand-washed in the sink of the motel room we shared with 6 other people, Avalina witnessed history. As the Senate clerk announced “ayes 33, nays 29” a rush of absolute joy filled the room. All of the anger, and fear, and hatred that Avie had witnessed had dissolved into four simple words, “the bill has passed.” At the age of 10 she was not only witnessing firsthand what democracy looks like, she had been a part of the process.

Since her time in Albany, Avie has become a vocal proponent of anti-bullying education in her school. She has conversations with her friends about what it means when they say, “that’s so gay,” and has stood up to her classmates when they are disrespectful to someone who is different.

Will she always have an interest in being socially active? I hope so, though that is her decision entirely. At the end of the day, much of what I have tried to instill in her, from a desire for social justice, to the health benefits of a well-balanced diet, will have to be accepted or rejected as she continues to command her personhood. No one can be forced to stand up, regardless of their belief in the cause. Children are no exception. I would never force Avalina to be involved in something that she did not want to take part in. I do however encourage her to find her own interests and causes to fight for, which I believe is something any parent should do. Look at your child’s interests and go from there. Do they like animals? Take them to volunteer at the SPCA. Are they involved in sports or the arts at school? Bring them to board of education meetings when funding for extra-curriculars is discussed.

As Edmond Burke states, justice exists only because human beings make the effort to stand against injustice. It is our duty as parents to mold the next generation of freedom fighters who will rise up, take to the streets, and stare down the barrel of hate in a hot, crowded statehouse.

If I leave my daughter with one lesson, it will be that she never stops using her voice. Her words are her weapons to take down the gravest of injustices, to inspire those around her to act, and to stand up for those who cannot speak.

The world will be far from perfect when my generation moves on, but as long as we instill the values of equality, fairness, and action in the face of injustice, the kids will be all right.

Melissa Kleckner is a wife and mother, an MSW candidate, and a straight ally living one mile west from the greatest city in the world. She is a New Jersey state organizer for GetEQUAL and a member of Queer Rising.

Devote in New York: Returning Home to Collect Stories

by Brynn
Published on: October 5, 2011
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Going home to New York this summer to collect stories for Devote was particularly meaningful for me, having grown up on Long Island. I have many vivid memories of being back in high school and feeling so alone and confused by longings I had for certain other girls. But it was the mid-nineties. There was no dialogue around sexuality and gender identity or safe havens like an LGBT alliance where I could come to know myself and other like-minded peers. I don’t believe there was a single ‘out’ student in the whole school, including on any of my sports teams.

Things have definitely changed. Sitting down with 16-year-old bullying victim turned activist, Corey Bernstein, the whole Devote crew was blown away by the courage this young man displays speaking out for safe schools. For him, part of being an effective advocate is opening up about what he endured and how it feels seeing so many kids his age take their lives rather than waiting for things to get better.

Luckily, there are a growing number of opportunities for people like Corey to channel their experiences into making a difference. There are resources sprouting up all over the place to support queer and questioning youth. Yet, Jamey Rodemeyer recently took his life rather than be taunted another day, and at a school dance just after his death, some of his sister’s peers teased her about it. It is everyone’s responsibility to nourish young minds and shield them from hate – directed at themselves and others.

Down the street from where I live now in Los Angeles, there is a memorial for Robert F. Kennedy outside the former Ambassador Hotel, where he was assassinated on June 5th, 1968 following a victory speech for the California primary. Sometimes, I walk my dogs there in the morning to gaze at a wall etched with quotes spoken by him, as well as brothers John and Edward, Maya Angelou, George Bernard Shaw, and Caesar Chavez, to name a few.

One quote by Robert Kennedy is especially relevant now that we are facing an epidemic where young people are committing suicide because there is no universal support system in place empowering them to find and be themselves.

‘Here before us today there are hundreds of young people. America should allow them to be anything which their talent and intelligence can make them. If America fails these young people, if through indifference or callousness they are denied jobs, opportunities, or education, then the American dream will have failed.”

Out4Immigration: Devote’s New Segment Features Warriors for Immigration Equality

It was over a decade ago now that I met C and R, featured in Devote’s segment with Out4Immigration. They were clients of mine at my first job in San Francisco, where I moved after graduating from college. Their story of struggling to be together legally in the United States as a binational same-sex couple was forever ingrained in my heart and is a huge part of the inspiration behind Devote. Their personal story changed my life.

At the time, the immigration ban against persons with HIV was still in effect. This was the ultimate factor in R’s inability to attain a green card. But imagine this.

A matter of months after R’s original three year visa lapsed, unable to be renewed because of the aforementioned reason, his sister called to inform him that his mother had fallen into a coma and might not survive. Imagine the burden he faced knowing that returning to Germany to be by his mother’s bedside meant risking his ability to return to the U.S. to be with C, his soul mate. For four days, C and R weighed their options, but by the time R decided to board a plane, his mother was already gone.

For anyone who thinks that LGBT equality is about LGBT people alone, think of R’s mother. She passed away without her son by her side because of unjust laws preventing his American born partner from sponsoring him for a green card, a right accorded to all binational couples in opposite sex marriages regardless of how long they’ve known one another.

If there is one thing I learned from coming to know C and R and many more binational couples like them, it is that the conviction and dedication inherent in their love for one another is solid, tested, tried, and true. In an era where couples divorce rather than face relationship struggles far less intense than what these people are facing, how is it possible the United States of America, the land of the free, continues to prevent them from legally being together?

For more information on how you can help, please visit or check out Judy Rickard’s Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law

Devote’s Segment with Senator David Norris on Ireland’s An Lár TV

by Brynn
Published on: May 1, 2011
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I often think back to the lunch hour Lisa, Karl and I spent in Merrion Square with Senator David Norris discussing the LGBT rights movement. That the Senator was so forthcoming about his personal experiences coming out of the closet was definitely a highlight of our shoot.

Whatever walk of life we come from, politicians or otherwise, we are each faced with the choice of living and speaking our personal truths or living and speaking what is more likely to appease others.

Mr. Norris had yet to officially announce his candidacy for president of Ireland at the time, but the option was certainly on the table. The Senator could have chosen to play a potential candidate during our session, but he instead played himself and proudly bared his humanity.

In doing so, he set an example for people not necessarily even old enough to vote that the greater risk comes from being dishonest and one day having to face the consequences. Speaking candidly about his sexuality may cost Senator Norris some votes but what is more important – lives or votes?

History will show that the people Senator Norris inspires to follow in his footsteps will have a more positive impact on the world than any person he might have tried to appease by keeping his truth quiet.

Thank you to An Lár TV for broadcasting our segment with Senator Norris and for turning up the volume of the conversation about the global nature of the equal rights movement.

Legislation and Letter from Congress Increases Demand for Protection of Same-Sex Binational Couples, Families from Discriminatory Immigration Law

by Brynn
Published on: April 14, 2011
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: No Comments

From our friends at Out4Immigration….

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) was reintroduced in the House and Senate today by long-time equal rights advocates Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The legislation is backed by 98 co-sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate, a record for the bill on reintroduction. It has been introduced in every session of Congress since 2000.

The bill would add three words to existing US immigration law – “or permanent partner” – wherever the word spouse appears, facilitating the need for LGBT Americans to obtain green cards for their partners while they wait for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws, and this is an outrage,” said Nadler. “Our Constitution guarantees that no class of people will be singled out for differential treatment — and LGBT Americans should not and must not be excluded from that guarantee.”
Adding a one-two punch to UAFA’s reintroduction is a letter from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16), the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice to stop denying LGBT green card applications and stop separating LGBT binational families. The letter was signed by 48 House members and adds weight to a similar letter sent last week by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and 11 of his colleagues requesting the same immediate remedy to what Rep. Nadler has repeatedly called “gratuitous cruelty.”

UAFA comes into the 112th Congress under a much different landscape than previous introductions of the bill. While Democrats no longer control the House and hold a slimmer majority in the Senate, support for same-sex binationals has grown since President Obama’s directive on February 23 that the federal government stop defending Section 3 of DOMA on the basis that the law – which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages – is unconstitutional.

No group is harder hit by DOMA than same-sex binational couples and their families, many who have been forced into exile or literally torn apart by immigration law that adheres to the DOMA decree that marriage is defined as “one man and one woman.” As a result, these couples, regardless of legal marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships are treated as “legal strangers”.

Deportation cases targeting the foreign partner in these relationships have been winning temporary stays of late, as judges are deferring to the Obama directive that DOMA is unconstitutional. This caused a major uproar last month when the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) stated it would hold all such cases in abeyance until DOMA’s constitutionality was either formally upheld or overturned. Although USCIS reversed this decision within 36 hours, advocates for same-sex binationals, like Out4Immigration, are petitioning USCIS, the DHS and the White House to restore the abeyance policy, urging an administrative fix until judicial and legislative actions can occur.

With advocacy engines now firing on all three branches of government – relief in some form for the heartbreak and injustice an estimated 36,000 same-sex binationals and their families incur has never seemed more possible. Out4Immigration urges more couples to come forward and tell their stories to continue to build and sustain the momentum. The all-volunteer, grassroots group can be contacted at

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