Friday, May 29, 2009

Immigration Equality Safe Haven Awards

immigration equality

I learned a lot at this one. Drew Tagliabue, Executive Director of PFLAG NYC, and his [Australian] partner Mark invited me to the Immigration Equality Safe Haven Awards last Tuesday evening. This is important to know, as it is a common misconception surrounding gay rights: Gay rights are not ONLY about same-sex marriage. “Gay rights” refers to equality: in the workplace, schools, hospitals, and the law. Therefore, there are hundreds of independent organizations that represent a fight or cause within this umbrella term of “gay rights.”

Immigration Equality is a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals. They bring together law firms and attorneys for pro-bono cases to grant immigration rights to LGBT people seeking asylum and same-sex bi-national couples since they cannot marry under federal law and therefore cannot affect citizenship. They also defend HIV-positive people who cannot legally enter our country and receive a visa for travel, work or living. Straight people can often times get around this law, but gay people have a harder time. There are rules and stipulations that stand in the way of equality (ie: The Immigration and Nationality Act). I have to draw attention to a poignant quote in Leigh-Taylor Smith’s blog from an experience at Jerry Nadler's Congressional Gala. Jerry Nadler said, "We are allowed to disagree, but not to deny." How can one defend the ability for a man to marry a woman just to gain citizenship (as this DOES happen), yet two people in a committed relationship, perhaps who even foster children together, cannot be united…in the United States of America, that place where people go to receive rights and freedoms?

I was able to meet the Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker (who was predicted to perhaps be the first black president...oops – how about the second?) and his assistant Barry, as well as a few lawyers whom I thanked for their time and dedication, along with Rachel Tiven, the Executive Director of IE. Everyone was supportive of my quest and my platform and excited to have another public straight ally on their side. It was wonderful to see so many lawyers, yes, some gay, but many straight, in their black power suits defending what is right and equal.

Mark Jones, Drew Tagliabue, Exec. Director of PFLAG NYC, myself, Rachel Tiven, Exec. Director of IE


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