Connect with us

National

Blumenthal seeks to aid lesbian bi-national couple

Senator wants marriage-based green card application put on hold

Published

on

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The junior senator from Connecticut is asking the Obama administration to hold a green card petition for a British national in same-sex relationship who would be eligible for residency in the United States if not for the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the Nov. 10 letter, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asks the Department of Homeland Security to hold the application for Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman. The couple, married in Connecticut in 2010, is seeking a green card through a marriage-based petition so that Truman, a citizen of the United Kingdom, can reside in the United States.

“Kelli and Lucy are active and valuable members of our community,” Blumenthal writes. “The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy — a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community — is not able to stay in the United States.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: US BALKS AT ASYLUM FOR GAY SAUDI DIPLOMAT

A U.S. citizen with a Ph.D. in immunology, Ryan works for a pharmaceutical company on drug discovery research to help combat autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Truman is an ENT surgeon and a post-doctoral fellow at Yale. The couple filed their marriage-based application on Thursday.

Blumenthal asks Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to hold the application on the basis that the Obama administration determined that DOMA is unconstitutional in February and the validity of the anti-gay law remains in question.

“The question of DOMA’s constitutionality and validity as applied to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples in states like Connecticut has yet to be decided by the federal courts and Congress,” Blumenthal writes. “Until such a final determination is made, I ask that you withhold judgment on the validity of this petition from lawfully married Connecticut citizens.”

Under current immigration law, straight Americans can sponsor their foreign spouses for residency in the United States. But the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, prohibits gay Americans from taking the same action for their same-sex spouses.

During a conference call Thursday, Ryan said the lack of her ability to sponsor her spouse for residency has been burdensome in decisions such as buying furniture, financial planning, and having children.

“There are some very simple practical everyday aspects of lives that are affected,” Ryan said. “For example, it’s really difficult to do any sort of planning — even for the short term — let alone the long term.”

Truman isn’t currently in danger of deportation from the country. She said during the conference call she’s currently able to stay within the United States on a work-based visa. However, that visa must be renewed every two years.

Blumenthal’s letter isn’t the first time lawmakers have urged DHS to hold marriage-based green applications in abeyance for bi-national gay couples. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and 47 other House members in April sent a letter to DHS asking for relief. A similar letter from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and 11 other senators was sent to DHS in the same month.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the most recent letter from Blumenthal. The Obama administration has said even though it believes DOMA is unconstitutional and won’t defend the law in court, the law will still be enforced as long as it remains on the books.

Blumenthal joins Immigration Equality is seeking to take action for Ryan and Truman. The LGBT immigration group is representing the couple in their bid to remain together in the United States.

Read the full text of Blumenthal’s letter here:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
Washington DC, 20393

Dear Madam Secretary,

I respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in particular, hold the spousal petition of Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman in abeyance pending a final determination of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Department of Justice (DOJ) has already indicated that it believes the law to be unconstitutional, and has declined to defend it in court. Moreover, the question of DOMA’s constitutionality and validity as applied to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples in states like Connecticut has yet to be decided by the federal courts and Congress. Until such a final determination is made, I ask that you withhold judgment on the validity of this petition from lawfully married Connecticut citizens.

In a letter dated April 14, 2011 addressed to you and Attorney General Holder by Representative Lofgren and 47 other members of the United States House of Representatives, similar relief was requested for all married couples of the same sex seeking spousal immigration sponsorship. These 48 Representatives asserted that holding same-sex spousal petitions in abeyance would not disrespect existing law, but would rather, “prevent the potentially irreparable harm that would be caused by application of a law that is currently under review by the courts and the U.S. Congress.” Until a final determination of the status of this law is made, the status quo should be preserved.

Also in April, Senator Kerry and 11 other Senators wrote to you and Attorney General Holder asking that you hold marriage-based petitions in abeyance pending legislative or judicial resolution of the constitutionality of DOMA. In a joint response, you and the Attorney General indicated that both DHS, including relevant sub-agencies such as USCIS, and DOJ exercise discretion in their treatment of individual cases. In my opinion, the couple in the present case deserves such review and should have their spousal petition held in abeyance.

Kelli Ryan and Lucy Truman met in Scotland in 2000. They entered into a civil union in the United Kingdom in 2006 and married in Connecticut in 2010. Kelli is a United States citizen with a Ph.D. in immunology. Lucy, who hails from the United Kingdom, is an ENT surgeon with an M.D. Ph.D. Kelli works for a pharmaceutical company in Connecticut, and is deeply engaged in drug discovery research to help combat deadly autoimmune diseases, with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis. Lucy is a post-doctoral fellow at Yale. Kelli and Lucy are active and valuable members of our community. Having been lawfully married in Connecticut, they now seek to establish long-term roots in our state. Kelli would like to sponsor Lucy for a family-based immigration visa in the hopes of making Connecticut their permanent home. The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy – a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community – is not able to stay in the United States.

In the wake of Attorney General Holder’s February 23, 2011 letter to Congress announcing that the President will no longer defend DOMA in federal court, couples like Kelli and Lucy face great uncertainty about their treatment under the law. Historically, the Department of Homeland Security has responded to such uncertainty by taking administrative actions to ensure the preservation of the status quo until a resolution has been achieved. For instance, in July 2009, DHS temporarily deferred action with regard to the widows of American citizens and their minor children to await impending legislative action that would provide those individuals with a path toward permanent resident status. A similar approach should be taken with regard to section 3 of DOMA as applied to lawful marriages of same-sex couples.

Ultimately, I believe DHS should establish a mechanism allowing couples similarly situated to Kelli and Lucy to have their green card applications held in abeyance. In the absence of such a mechanism, however, I ask that you act in this particular case to provide temporary relief to Kelli Ryan and Lucy Truman by holding their spousal petition in abeyance in an effort to avoid future harm to this couple and to the State of Connecticut. I appreciate your time and attention to this important matter.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

Published

on

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)
Continue Reading

National

‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular