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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 13
U.S. Customs to recognize same-sex families
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U.S. Customs to recognize same-sex families

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published new rules on March 27 that will allow same-sex couples to reenter the U.S. in the same way as opposite-sex couples.

CBP will be open to comments on the new rules until May 26, at which time they will be finalized.

Under the new rules, same-sex couples living in a single household who travel together can make a single joint declaration at the time they return home, and fill out a single set of forms, just like opposite-sex couples do.

Until now, same-sex couples have been forced to fill out two separate forms, even though the customs form states 'only one written declaration per family is required.'

The definition of the term 'members of a family residing in one household' will now be expanded to include domestic relationships, including foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, and legal wards - as well as same-sex couples.

The change should reduce the number of declarations, streamline passenger processing by CBP officers, and bring down costs, CBP said.

CBP added that the proposed change would 'more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family.'

Two adults of the same gender in a civil union or domestic partnership, or who have shared financial assets and obligations, will be eligible.

The CBP statement makes no explicit mention of married same-sex couples, although they are eligible as well under the terms of the new rules if they live together in the same household and have shared financial assets.

LGBT groups that had requested the change praised the Obama administration for starting the process to make it happen.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said her organization is 'proud to see this change come to fruition.'

'Separating families in the customs line was a waste of government resources and a painful symbol of the double standard LGBT families face at the federal level,' Tiven said.

'This proposal ends that insult. It sends an unmistakable message that the administration, and the United States, recognize Gay families as 'real families,' too.'

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, called the proposed change a major victory and said the administration proposed the rule because it 'recognized the need to modernize forms and regulations to reflect the reality of today's American families.'

'No child should have to ask their parent if they really are a family because of an arcane customs form,' Chrisler said.

'But that is what is happening to LGBT families who are treated differently when re-entering the United States through Customs and Border Protection after traveling abroad. In many cases couples are forced to declare they have no relationship with their spouses, and parents are forced to split up their children in order to get through the customs process.'

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