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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 18
LGBT organizations to Obama: Stop deporting LGBT spouses!
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LGBT organizations to Obama: Stop deporting LGBT spouses!

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On May 6, LGBT organizations from across the country are set to rally behind a Gay bi-national couple who are facing deportation hearings under the stark reality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty in New York, GetEQUAL officials issued a statement saying they are working with a host of other LGBT organizations - including Stop the Deportations, All Out, Courage Campaign, Garden State Equality, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Princeton Equality Project, and Queer Rising - to make clear that these deportations of LGBT spouses must stop immediately.

On May 5, a rally outside the Newark Federal Courthouse took place as Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela face deportation hearings before the court.

'Despite legally marrying in Connecticut in August 2010, Vandiver (a Ph.D. student at Princeton University) and Velandia (a salsa dancer, instructor, and founder of a Princeton-based dance studio) are facing a nightmare scenario: being ripped apart from one another at the hands of the U.S. government,' said GetEQUAL officials in a May 5 statement. 'Due to DOMA, the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, which discriminates against same-sex couples. As a result, Josh cannot sponsor Henry for a green card unlike all straight married couples in the same situation. A loving, legally married couple are now at risk of being torn apart with Henry's potential deportation looming.'

Josh and Henry became tireless advocates for LGBT bi-national couples in the United States, all the while fighting to stay together and save their own marriage. Last fall they launched the 'Stop the Deportations' campaign to raise awareness of the cruel impact that DOMA has on married same-sex couples and to challenge DOMA in immigration court proceedings.

'I never intended nor wanted to be an activist. I have to do what is necessary to save our marriage and to keep the man I love in this country,' said Josh, reflecting on their seven-month campaign. 'Henry could be ripped away from me, but that doesn't have to happen. The Obama administration can immediately stop the deportations of spouses of Gay and Lesbian Americans. This would ensure that Henry and I aren't torn apart.'

Their predicament - which they share with tens of thousands of other LGBT couples -

was thrust in to the spotlight again in March, after the Obama administration declared it would no longer defend DOMA in the courts. Despite hopes that this would mean the federal government would cease deporting LGBT spouses, the administration continues to enforce DOMA as it tears families apart, despite President Obama's continued assurances that his administration is only prioritizing criminal deportations.

'These men are going through what no couple in America should have to go through: choosing between love and country,' said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. 'Henry and Josh are a loving couple. America is better than this, and I urge President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to act now. Save this relationship and stop deporting our families.'

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