Proposed revisions to U.S. customs forms would recognize LGBT households

By |2018-01-16T12:16:34-05:00March 22nd, 2012|News|

Washington DC – The Family Equality Council and Immigration Equality praised the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Treasury March 26 for supporting a proposal to allow all families – including those headed by LGBT parents – to file a single customs declaration form upon returning to the U.S. from travel abroad.
“Immigration Equality is proud to see this change come to fruition,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “We asked the Obama administration to stop discriminating against families on federal customs forms, and today’s announcement is welcome news. 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. This proposal ends that insult. It sends an unmistakable message that the Administration, and the United States, recognize gay families as ‘real families,’ too.”
The changes in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations would broaden the definition of “members of a family residing in one household” to include the different types of family relationships that currently exist across the country, including the relationships that exist between LGBT couples and their children.
“No child should have to ask their parent if they really are a family because of an arcane customs form,” said Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler, “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 travelling 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.”
The current regulatory definition of “members of a family living in one household” includes “all persons … who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption …” This definition excludes members of any family who may not be related by blood, marriage, or adoption, but who still function as a family living in one household.
The proposed change will undergo a series of reviews prior to implementation, including a period of public comment. Immigration Equality vowed to rally public support for the changes, including support from families directly impacted by the change, such as Mihail S. Lari and his partner, Scott Murray.
In June 2011, Mihail, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan, and Scott entered the U.S. following a European trip. They filled out one customs form, “since it states that only one form is needed for each family,” said Mihail. The customs officer asked why they had only completed one form, and when they replied they were domestic partners registered in the state of California, the officer said, “The federal government doesn’t recognize that.”
“Scott and I met the qualifications on the customs form, including a shared address, yet the federal government refused to recognize us as a family,” said Lari. “After waiting years for citizenship because federal law would not allow Scott to sponsor me, we were then faced with the reality that, even after I naturalized, we were still not family in our government’s eyes. This proposal is one step towards correcting that, and our family is glad to see it moving forward.”
When adopted, this proposal will end discriminatory treatment of LGBT families, who until now have been forced to fill out two separate forms despite the fact that the form says “only one written declaration per family is required.”
“President Obama and this administration have recognized the need to modernize forms and regulations to reflect the reality of today’s American families and we applaud them for that,” added Chrisler. “We look forward to the day when LGBT families are recognized, respected and protected by all laws and policies.”

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.