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UAFA-inclusive family immigration bill introduced

Bill enables gay Americans to sponsor foreign partners for residency

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Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) sponsors the Reuniting Families Act. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A U.S. House member from California on Thursday introduced family immigration legislation that includes language allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced the Reuniting Families Act, which has a provision that would protect bi-national same-sex couples as one of its six prongs to keep families together in the country.

During a conference call Thursday, Honda touted his legislation as a means to make U.S. immigration policy more fair for gay Americans and their foreign partners.

“RFA also ends discrimination in our immigration system by allowing same-sex permanent partners to sponsor their foreign national partners for immigration benefits,” Honda said.

The provision allowing gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for residency in the United States is identical to other legislation known as the Uniting American Families Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in the Senate.

Rachel Tiven, executive director for Immigration Equality, praised Honda for including a provision for bi-national same-sex couples as part of his legislation.

“Separating families has an enormously expensive impact, it is a drain on the economy and separating Americans from their loved ones and forcing them to move abroad because they can’t keep their family together in this country is simply pointless,” Tiven said.

In addition to including UAFA-like language, Honda’s legislation would help shorten the wait times that can keep legal immigrants and their overseas loved ones separated for years. The bill would classify spouses and children of permanent U.S. residents as “immediate relatives” and exempt them from numerical caps on immigration.

“The reality is almost 6 million people are stuck the log jam of our family visa system,” Honda said. “The current system has not been updated in over 20 years, and many family members who apply for visas are not granted admission for decades — and that undermines their economic contributions to our country and encourages some frustrated relatives to resort to illegal migration.”

The Reuniting Families Act has 73 co-sponsors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as well as gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The co-sponsors are all Democrats; no Republicans have signed on in support.

Rep. David Cicilline, another gay lawmaker, isn’t among the co-sponsors. His office didn’t respond on short notice to explain why his name isn’t on the list of supporters.

During the conference call, Honda said he intends his legislation to be a marker to set the tone for debate on larger comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the 112th Congress. President Obama is set to give a speech on Tuesday calling for the passage of legislation to reform U.S. immigration code.

“It’s to also tell our citizens and those with legal permanent resident status to be part of the movement for a comprehensive package for everyone in this country,” Honda said. “I’d like to make sure that we just go through the arc once and just fix all the holes and make sure that this thing we call immigration system … is a better vessel for people that we’re trying to care of.”

Until comprehensive immigration reform can be passed, Honda called on Obama to issue a moratorium to stop the deportation of foreign nationals in same-sex unions who would eligible for married-based green cards if not for the Defense of Marriage Act.

“The president has at his disposal certain kinds of statutory existing powers that he can stay a deportation process,” Honda said. “He can put in a place a situation where folks will be held in abeyance and allowed to work and allowed to continue their lives until such time that we correct our immigration system.”

Last month, Honda was among the 47 U.S. House members, who, along with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), wrote the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security Meanwhile to stop the deportations of foreigners in legally recognized same-sex marriages in the United States.

In the 111th Congress, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sponsored the Senate version of the Reuniting Families Act, but he has yet to introduce this bill this year.

The version of the bill that Menendez previously introduced didn’t include a provision for bi-national same-sex couples, although the legislation was similar in other respects to Honda’s bill. However, at the end of last year, Menendez introduced larger comprehensive immigration reform legislation in which the both the Reuniting Families Act and the Uniting American Families Act were provisions.

Menendez’s office didn’t respond by deadline to a request to comment when the senator would reintroduce the Reuniting Families Act or whether it would include a provision to keep bi-national same-sex couples together in the United States.

Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for Immigration Equality, said he thinks Menendez will likely again introduce comprehensive legislation this Congress that would include both Uniting American Families Act and the Reuniting Families Act.

“Sen. Menendez would be the best person to talk about the Senate CIR strategy, but my expectation is that we will see an inclusive, all-encompassing Senate bill which incorporates the various other bills, such as UAFA and RFA, into one,” Ralls said.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Ugly American

    May 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    CIR is not a necessity in the current economic climate. It essentially amounts to gifts to foreign countries and their citizens who believe American laws don’t apply to them.
    The so-called “Dream Act” is a slap in the face to everyone in America, citizen and immigrant alike.
    Instead of reawakening the American Dream it benefits only the children of unregistered foreign nationals who are here illegally. It is a reward for having ignored US law. That will never be popular with anyone but foreign nations and their citizens.
    Families are frequently formed in the US and regardless of their makeup should stay together. But whether they should remain in America as a unit should be dependent on several factors.
    Foreign nationals who serve in our military should be given citizenship along with their immediate families.
    But it is not needed to grant amnesty to everyone who sets boot in the country.
    Rather than these congressmen concentrating on making life easier for foreigners who break American laws, perhaps they would serve their own country better by including Americans in their plans.
    If they want the Dream Act so badly, make it a Dream for everyone.
    Along with provisions for citizenship for illegal foreigners, include 100% government loan financing at 1% or 2% interest with simple terms for all citizens who want to go to college.
    That would cost the government nothing, revitalize the higher education system in America and encourage a smarter populace. It would also boost the economy in ways not yet imagined.
    And include something to avoid kicking our registered foreign students in the teeth by offering permanent status to them for completing college and working for a US company for five years.
    That would make the “Dream Act” a real dream for everyone instead of just foreign nationals.
    Concentrating on the wants and needs of any one race or outside country when Americans could use help means that you congress critters are either counting on all these unregistered foreign citizens becoming Americans before re-election time or you think the American People are just plain stupid.
    Our own civil rights people learned the hard way that you can’t get away with calling people racist if you are yourself. Our laws are not discriminatory because they apply to everyone. If we make exception for certain races or countries then they would indeed be discriminatory.

    • Frankie James

      May 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      You certainly picked a good screen name. Your rambling is confusing, hate filled, and has nothing to do with the article. Go Back to FOX!

    • mit

      May 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

      Hi my friend ugly amrican…

      DO u believe in love and feeligs?? if u believe then think abt living without ur wife and child for 4 yrs……and then write something ….i am sure ur voice and tone vl be different….i am not in the favour of dream act but certainly in the favour of Reunite family act….this is more rational and human…..We should not waste 50000 visas for dv lottery instead of that just pass the reunite family act…..

    • Anthony

      May 17, 2011 at 8:19 am

      That is very well said and should be published for more to read and re-read!!!

  2. rachelle

    May 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Awesome! So this would possibly make it happen quickly and before UAFA or DOMA repealed?
    Would love to know the chances of this changing as it sounds like it could happen quickly???
    Also foreign partner is that mean you have to have a civil union or marriage or is ‘defacto partnership’ recognised? I ask because we are defacto (4 years) and never wanted the piece of paper unless it’s necessary if you catch my drift…
    Anymore info would be helpful.
    thanks

    • Chris Johnson

      May 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Rachelle,

      Honda’s bill would enable gay Americans to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for residency in the United States regardless of whether or not these couples are married, in a civil union or have no legal relationship recognition.

    • Rupert

      May 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Rachelle,

      I am following this discussion for a while – and even though it seems like there could be some movement now, you might keep on pursuing other options to keep your family together. Don’t get me wrong, hoping that this is going to happen soon, but I wouldn’t bank on that … (would love to be proven wrong with my assessment btw. ;-) ) Until UAFA is passed (or DOMA repeal): keep fighting (check out http://www.immigrationequality.org)

  3. mary

    September 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Dear Ugly American.
    I’m an American woman living in Spain with my Spanish wife. After being together for years and living here, I would like to come home and live in the US and of course with my wife. If she were a man, then that wouldn’t be a problem. Since the US federal gov’t doesnt recognize same sex marriages, we don’t have the option to go to the US. Putting immigrant’s rights aside, what about my right as an American to live in my country and live with the person I love and have been with for many years and plan on being with this person in the future? I think your opinions are reactionary and you don’t see the whole picture and every one who is affected. We are following the rules and my wife is not living in the US and we’re waiting here for the law to change over there. So don’t assume that every one affected by these things are breaking the law. Gay people are such a small percentage of the population (2% of men and 1% of women) and gay americans with partners from a different country is an even smaller percentage. So really, it’s not like you have to worry about gay foreigners running rampant through the streets of your wholesome american town.

  4. Damian Leon

    October 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    What about the inherent unfairness when if someone that is not from Mexico or the Phillipines who is petitioned by a US citizen parent will get a green card sooner than if someone who is from Mexico or the Phillpines that started the process in 2001! Make everyone wait the same time, num-nuts.

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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