Gay and lesbian couples seeking immigration rights

The Washington Post talks about the implications of same-sex marriage for couples wanting to immigrate (or have one of the couple immigrate) to the United States. If these couples were opposite sex, it would be significantly less an issue. Green Card marriages are well-known, and when the marriage is genuinely between real partners, and not just a fiction to get someone through the legalities of immigration, they are generally granted.

One of the couples mentioned in the story is John Beddingfield (46) and Erwin de Leon (44), who have been together for 12 years. Recently they they married in the District of Columbia. Erwin is a graduate student and former interim coordinator of the diocesan networks for Episcopal Relief and Development. DeLeon’s visas are going to run out shortly. Beddingfield is the rector of All Souls Episcopal Church.

When gay couples were given the right to marry in the District earlier this year, John Beddingfield and Erwin de Leon were among those who quickly obtained marriage licenses. In April, the Woodley Park couple – who have been together for 12 years – quietly exchanged vows before a justice of the peace.

Yet even as they pledged to stand by each other in sickness and in health, Beddingfield, 46, the rector at All Souls Episcopal Church, and de Leon, 44, a doctoral student from the Philippines, were aware that their marriage still hadn’t guaranteed them the same rights as heterosexual couples. The District recognizes their marriage, but the federal government does not. The country that had given de Leon a home, given him an education and given him Beddingfield would not allow him to start the process of becoming a citizen, even as it extends that benefit to the foreign-born spouses of heterosexual U.S. citizens.

Once de Leon’s student visa runs out next year, he will likely be forced to join the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“I grew up looking to this country for its ideals and really believe strongly that it is about equality, freedom and opportunity,” de Leon said. “It is too bad that a small minority – gays and lesbians – are still treated as second-class citizens.”

Religious groups are the biggest stumbling block for equality on this issue:

“It introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise,” said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House bill aimed at reuniting families made it “impossible” for the group to support the measure. “Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a 16-million-strong group of evangelical Latinos that could play a key political role in an immigration overhaul, is similarly opposed to including provisions for gay and lesbian families. The president of the organization, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, said that including such a measure would prove to be the “death knell” for comprehensive change.

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