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Blumenthal seeks to aid lesbian bi-national couple

Senator wants marriage-based green card application put on hold

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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.”

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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.

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Texas to resume abuse investigations into families with trans children

“To be clear the Supreme Court has not directed Commissioner Masters & DFPS to continue investigating parents of trans youth for child abuse”

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In a statement issued Thursday, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) agency announced that it will resume abuse investigations into families with transgender kids.

“DFPS treats all reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate each to the full extent of the law,” the statement read.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the DFPS statement, while not addressing the investigations into medical treatments for trans youth, indirectly indicated that these probes will now continue.

Current state law does not explicitly define gender affirming medical treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy as child abuse. A DFPS spokesman did not comment when asked if the agency plans to continue investigating such treatments as child abuse, the Dallas Morning News noted.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that DFPS can continue to investigate families in the state who provide medically necessary care for their Trans children, excluding the parties in the litigation that brought the matter forward in a lawsuit filed in March.

In its decision, the court emphasized that neither Attorney General Paxton nor Governor Abbott has the power or authority to direct DFPS to investigate the provision of medically necessary lifesaving health care for transgender youth as child abuse. But the court limited the order blocking all investigations to the specific plaintiffs who filed suit.

Trans activist Landon Richie who has been deeply involved in the efforts to mitigate the anti-trans actions by Texas lawmakers and has led protests against the transphobic actions by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton told the Blade:

“To be clear, the Texas Supreme Court has not directed Commissioner Masters and DFPS to continue investigating parents of trans youth for child abuse. While the decision means now only the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit have protection, it reiterates that Attorney General Paxton’s opinion and Governor Abbott’s letter are not binding and not enforceable, meaning DFPS’s actions moving forward are at the discretion of Commissioner Masters only and not the state leadership’s directives. The Texas Supreme Court allowing for the district court to provide a temporary injunction is a good sign for people’s protection. 

It bears reminding families in Texas and around the country that today’s decision (and yesterday’s regarding gender-affirming care at UT Southwestern and Texas Children’s) reaffirms what we already know: opinions are only opinions and the people in power cannot abuse that power to abuse trans people. We know decisions can change at a moment’s notice and that this fight will take years, but to our families and communities under attack, please remain strong and take a moment to breathe. We’re in this together. “

An employee of DFPS who was a litigant in the lawsuit is represented by the ACLU of Texas.

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas who is on the team representing that unnamed employee, said the state’s decision to reopen the cases is unfortunate and unlawful. He said his team believes that the high court’s decision removes any responsibility for Texans to report trans youth getting treatments, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“We are going to be closely monitoring what the agency does. We would encourage families that have any reason to believe that they have an investigation to seek legal help,” Klosterboer said.

“Abbott’s letter and Paxton’s opinion did not change Texas law,” he added. “Gender affirming health care is still legal in all 50 states.”

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“Don’t Say Gay” student leader says school stopping run for student leadership

Jack Petocz organized a state-wide student protest against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill & annoyed administrators suspended him

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Jack Petocz (Center) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government earlier this Spring (Courtesy of Jack Petocz/Facebook)

Jack Petocz, a Flagler Palm Coast High School junior, organized a state-wide student protest against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill this past March, and at his school, annoyed administrators suspended him.

On Tuesday, Petocz said that the school’s disciplinary action is now preventing him from running for senior class president.

“When I returned, the administration assured me that no further disciplinary action would be taken. A month later, they broke this verbal agreement and placed a level 3 referral on my record. Now, due to this high level of discipline, I am being prevented from running for senior class president. I am continuing to be punished for standing up for my identity and against widespread hatred.”

The suspension over the student walkout became a viral moment that propelled the 17-year-old into the national spotlight and into the national discourse over a spate of harsh laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

17-year-old Cameron Driggers, a student LGBTQ+ activist-organizer of the group Recall Flagler County School Board and co-leader of the walk-out, his friend’s suspension inspired him to create a petition on Change.org to pressure Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Greg Schwartz to rescind his seemingly arbitrary decision to suspend Petocz.

One protest at the school over its suspension of Petocz brought together a grizzled and proud Out gay U.S. Marine Corps veteran accompanied by his fellow vets, who alongside with Driggers and the other young adolescent activists protested in a rally in front of the school at the same time Petocz and his father were inside meeting with Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Greg Schwartz, hoping to get him to rescind his seemingly arbitrary decision to suspend Petocz.

Jack Petocz (with bullhorn) leads Flagler Palm Coast High School protest against DSG bill (Photo by Alysa Vidal)

Later on during the day Driggers posted to the Change.org petition the news that Principal Schwartz had backed off.

“Recall FCSB is pleased to announce that Jack’s suspension has ended and he is back on-campus. We are grateful for the thousands of people around the globe that shared, tweeted and protested in support of Jack, the organizer behind the state-wide Don’t Say Gay Walkout. Over 7500 signatures were collected on a condemnation of Principal Greg Schwartz’ conduct last Thursday. With Jack back on campus, Recall FCSB will continue to empower student leaders in and out of school,” Driggers wrote.

Principal Schwartz also committed to removing the ‘disciplinary action’ from Petocz’s school record.

On Tuesday, Petocz announced that Principal Schwartz and other school officials are barring him from running for an elected student office.

In response to the news, PEN America issued the following statement from Jonathan Friedman, director of the Free Expression and Education program:

“By going back on their word and imposing a red mark on Jack Petocz’s disciplinary record, the Flagler Palm Coast High School administration appears bent on retaliating against him for organizing the walkout against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This is unconscionable. Jack exercised his right to protest as a citizen, and he led the walkout with the school’s approval. No student ought to be intimidated or punished by school authorities for their political speech, and the school already told him he would not be disciplined. This is especially troubling alongside news of other efforts to censor or intimidate students raising their voices for LGBTQ+ rights across Florida. The leaders of Flagler Palm Coast High School should remove this infraction from his record so that he can run for class president just like any other student.”

On Twitter, Petocz urged people to contact his school to get officials to reverse this latest decision.

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National

History making win- Out Lesbian could be Oregon’s next governor

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen”

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Courtesy of Tina Kotek

The Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday win by Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, who had announced her run for the governor’s seat to replace incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who is term limited last September 1st, 2021, positions her to become the first Out Lesbian governor in the nation should she win the general election in November.

Kotek’s win comes during an uptick in the elections nationwide as more candidates running for office identify as LGBTQ”. More than 600 LGBTQ candidates are on ballots this year, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

According to the Victory Fund, at least 101 people ran or are running for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House – with 96 still actively running as of February 21, 2022. That marks a 16.1 percent increase in LGBTQ Congressional candidates compared to the 2020 election cycle, when 87 people ran.

Speaking to her supporters after it became clear she had won over Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, who was polling second among Oregonian progressives, “This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said.

Republican state legislator Christine Drazan along with an independent candidate, Betsy Johnson are slated to be on the November ballot.

Last Fall when she announced her candidacy, she said, “I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon.” She also noted, “Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind. We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.” 

“A victory for Tina would shatter a lavender ceiling and be a milestone moment in LGBTQ political history, yet she is running not to make history, but because there are few people as prepared and qualified to serve as Oregon’s governor,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Under Tina’s leadership, Oregon has led in passing legislation to improve roads and education, raise the minimum wage and ensure all residents are treated fairly and equally. As governor, Tina will make Oregon a role model for the nation.”

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