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Kerry announces foreign same-sex couples eligible for visas

Sec’y of State makes announcement at U.S. Embassy in London

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Gay News, Washington Blade, John Kerry
Gay News, Washington Blade, John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry announced new policy in which foreign same-sex couples are eligible for visas (photo public domain).

Speaking at the U.S. embassy in London, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the State Department will begin processing visa applications for married gay couples in the same way the administration does for opposite-sex couples.

“If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally,” Kerry said. “If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.”

According to a frequently-asked-questions page on the State Department website, the change means the same-sex spouse of a visa applicant who’s coming to the United States for any purpose – such as work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa. Similarly, stepchildren acquired through same-sex marriages can qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status.

Kerry made the announcement at the U.S. embassy in London en route back to Washington following his trip to Islamabad, Pakistan, for consultations with the newly elected government. He noted same-sex marriage will begin in England and Wales starting in 2014 thanks to recently passed legislation, which would give married same-sex couples there an additional opportunity to apply for visas in the United States.

“Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate,” Kerry said.

According to Freedom to Marry, 16 countries have legalized same-sex marriage. They include the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, and Brazil. New Zealand, Uruguay and Britain have also legalized marriage equality, but the laws there have yet to take effect.

The change brings the State Department into alignment with the Supreme Court decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. It also comes on the heels of a policy change at the Department of Homeland Security enabling married bi-national same-sex couples to apply for green cards via the I-130 marriage-based green card application process.

“Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I’m proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States,” Kerry said.

The FAQ on the State Department’s website says a gay couple doesn’t have to live or intend to live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage for that couple to apply for an immigrant or a non-immigrant visa.

Further, the couple doesn’t even need to be married or live in country that offers same-sex marriage as long as they intend to wed. In this case, the FAQ says the couple may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé (K) visa.

“As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage,” the FAQ states.

In a blog posting on Immigration Equality’s website, Victoria Neilson, the organization’s legal director, said the new policy marks “another day to celebrate,” but added the organization wants further change from the administration.

“We have not yet solved every issue for all couples — we are hearing that Customs & Border Protection agents are still awaiting guidance and may not allow same-sex spouses to enter the U.S. in derivative status,” Neilson said. “Likewise, we continue to be concerned about how DOS will handle safety issues for marriage-based benefits filed for noncitizens in countries that criminalize same-sex relations. Immigration Equality will continue to push every agency until all couples are able to access the benefits that they are entitled to under the law.”

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New York Gender Recognition Act passes heads to Governor Cuomo

“We are protected by a constitution. Nowhere does it say that these rights don’t apply to one group of people.”

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New York Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell marching in the 2019 NYC Pride (Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell)

ALBANY, NY. – With a final push shepherded by openly gay New York State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, (D), the New York State Assembly passed New York Senate Bill S4402 and its Assembly companion bill A5465, the Gender Recognition Act. The legislation now heads to New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo who is expected to sign the measure.

The legislation allows for an “x” designation on the state’s driver’s licenses. The measure would also help waive an outdated rule requiring people to publish a notification in a newspaper when they change their name in the state. 

“Today is a proud day for New York State, as we secure our standing as a leader in LGBTQ rights and ensure that transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Yorkers have the equality and dignity they deserve,” O’Donnell said. “No one should face overwhelming financial, medical, and bureaucratic barriers simply to have their existence officially recognized. These obstacles only serve to make people’s lives harder and more dangerous, particularly for trans New Yorkers of color who too often have limited resources, face disproportionate rates of violence, and are already marginalized by our legal system. I am deeply honored to carry this important bill and thank all of the trans, non-binary, and intersex advocates who have worked tirelessly to shape and support it.”

On Tuesday, June 8, the State Senate passed S4402, which was co-sponsored by openly gay State Senator Brad Hoylman. In an interview published the same day by The Hill, when asked about the GRA, O’Donnell noted that transgender rights is one of his life pursuits, and that there is still much work to be done. 

“When marriage equality was passed, I knew there would be a backlash. I didn’t know the backlash would be directed at trans people, or involve bathrooms. So, there’s work to be done. Last year, we passed a bill that said if a bathroom only has one toilet, anyone is allowed to use it, to prevent people from being threatened or beaten up for using the wrong bathroom,” he said. “We are supposed to be free, and we’re all living in America where we are protected by a constitution. Nowhere does it say that these rights don’t apply to one group of people,” he added.

Gay City News reported that the legislation drew praise from LGBTQ legal advocates who have long fought for reform. Andy Marra, who is the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), said TLDEF worked to secure key elements of the bill, including waiving the requirement for medical documentation as well as the removal of the publication requirement in newspapers.

“Along with our colleagues at the Empire Justice Center and the Gender Recognition Act Coalition, TLDEF worked closely with state lawmakers to craft some of the most inclusive legislation to date,” Marra said in an email to GCN. “This bill can now serve as a model for other states across the country.”

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Gallup Poll shows 70% approval for same-sex marriage

The issue has been less prominent in U.S. politics, and public support for same-sex marriage has continued to increase

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“I Do.” A mass wedding was held in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 21, 2013. Participants were bussed in from states that banned same-sex marriage to legally wed in D.C., a jurisdiction that enacted marriage equality years before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – New polling released by Gallup Tuesday showed that 70% of those Americans surveyed approved of same-sex marriage, a new milestone in the trend of approval since 1996 when Gallup first polled Americans on recognition of same-sex marriages, which then only registered a 27% approval.

According to the data kept by the firm, the upward trend steadily increased with a majority approval in 2011, followed by a 60% rating at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015.

Gallup noted; “Since then, the issue has been less prominent in U.S. politics, and public support for same-sex marriage has continued to increase. Gallup has recorded other shifts in Americans’ ideas on marriage over time, historically, including expanded support for interracial marriage, which had 87% approval as of Gallup’s 2013 update.”

Republicans, who have consistently been the party group least in favor of same-sex marriage, show majority support in 2021 for the first time (55%). The latest increase in support among all Americans is driven largely by changes in Republicans’ views, Gallup reported.

Democrats have consistently been among the biggest supporters of legal same-sex marriage. The current 83% among Democrats is on par with the level of support Gallup has recorded over the past few years.

This could suggest that support for gay marriage has reached a ceiling for this group, at least for now. Meanwhile, support among political independents, now at 73%, is slightly higher than the 68% to 71% range recorded from 2017 to 2020.

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Politics

First gay Black man elected in Texas; Beats anti-LGBTQ incumbent

“Jalen shattered a lavender ceiling in Texas, and it came as right-wing state legislators target LGBTQ people.”

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Jalen McKee-Rodriguez campaign poster

SAN ANTONIO, TX. – Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, a high school math teacher and graduate student who has lived in San Antonio since 2013, beat his former boss and incumbent in the runoff race for the San Antonio City Council. With his victory, McKee-Rodriguez became the first out gay Black man ever elected in the state of Texas.

McKee-Rodriguez once worked for his opponent, incumbent City Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, but left her office in 2019 after facing retaliation for reporting anti-gay discrimination and harassment. Just last week, poll watchers heard two pastors who endorsed Andrews-Sullivan tell congregants voting for McKee-Rodriguez would be a “sin.”

“Jalen shattered a lavender ceiling in Texas, and it came as right-wing state legislators target LGBTQ people and people of color with bigoted policies aimed at rallying their extremist political base,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “We need more people of color, young people and LGBTQ people in state and local government who will ensure politicians look to improve the lives of Texans, not further marginalize them. Jalen’s victory is a rejection of the homophobic and racist politicking so fashionable in Austin and it will inspire more LGBTQ Black leaders to run and win.”

McKee-Rodriguez graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio, (UTSA) with a BA in Communication in 2017 and will graduate with a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies this year. McKee-Rodriguez married his husband Nathan, a pharmacy technician, in 2018, and the couple owns a home in the suburban San Antonio Northeast Crossing neighborhood.

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