A reader writes:
I have been reflecting a lot on your response to the opinion expressed by Allahpundit regarding the Prop 8 decision. I like what you said with respect to the timing and your defense of the decision of Olson and Boies to bring on this lawsuit. However, I think you could have challenged Allahpundit's other statements more fiercely. For one, it's true that the harm isn't "as egregious" as that experienced by blacks under Jim Crow. But there is a small minority of us who currently do experience a form of segregation. I'm referring here to those of us in same-sex binational relationships who have been unable to procure a legal means to live together in the United States.
Speaking for myself, I was unable to sponsor my British partner for immigration. She had neither the wealth, the connections, nor the right profession to allow her to obtain a visa under any of the available categories. I was forced to choose between living without the love of my life or leaving the United States to be able to live happily with my life partner.
While we are allowed to use any restroom or sit in any seat on public transportation when we visit the US, we can't live there if we want to spend our lives together as a couple! Love or country? Is that not a restriction in some sense as harmful to an individual as Jim Crow?
It is even worse for people in my situation who don't have the alternative option of living in a nation as accepting as the UK. There are people whose partners come from countries like Egypt or Pakistan where they are frequently denied even tourist visas to visit the US.
As for me, my professional training as a doctor is not recognized in the UK. I am forced to either re-train, leave clinical medicine, or spend months out of the year working overseas to maintain my professional qualifications. It's an urgent concern of mine to know whether it is worth re-training over the next four years or whether in a year or two I could legally return to the US with my partner. Leaving the US has placed a tremendous financial and professional burden upon me and my partner - and all this during a recession!
Furthermore, let's imagine for a moment that Prop 8 is upheld by the Supreme Court - allowing states to define marriage as one man-one woman as they see fit - but Section 3 of DOMA gets overturned in the other recent legal battle. Were that to happen, I could sponsor my partner for immigration to the US, but we could only live in one of the handful of states that allows gay marriage! Is that not segregation?
We should stop feeling apologetic because our civil rights struggle isn't "as bad." It's still very bad for some of us. We binational couples are a minority of a minority, and many of us are to afraid to jeopardize our tenuous legal status if we speak up. Few people understand the complexity of this issue within the gay marriage debate. Telling someone they can't live in the US with the one they love; that they have to find a new country to immigrate to if they want to live together; that they have to risk losing their careers and their savings in order to be together; this for some us, while different from Jim Crow, is on a par with the egregious inequality perpetuated by segregation.
Is there assurance of a legislative solution? Overturning Section 3 of DOMA, as I mentioned, limits the states we can live in. The only solution would be passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, UAFA, RFA, LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, or a federal civil unions bill (not on the table). And with the current dysfunction in our Congress and especially the Senate, I don't see any of these passing in the near future.
So, this is urgent! I just turned 40, and career decisions I make now will affect the next decade of my life and my ultimate professional contribution. I weigh these decisions against an imaginary timescale whereby I might be able to return to the US, and I am increasingly coming to believe that I must resign myself to settling permanently in the UK.