Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Jessica Carreras
MADISON HEIGHTS –
On July 4 of 2005, a day when most Americans celebrated their unsurpassed freedoms and rights, Anton Anderssen was in Canada getting married – a right not afforded to him by U.S. federal law. Anderssen and his now-husband, Marcus, of Madison Heights, were married in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, because they were not free to marry anywhere in the U.S.
Now, they’re facing problems with the law again and are fighting, along with many other couples and organizations, for the right to be together.
Anton and Marcus met on the internet near Valentine’s Day of 2004. Marcus, a citizen of Italy, came to the states often on a travel visa to spend his vacation time from his job as a bank director with Anton. The two traveled to Las Vegas and Waikiki, took a cruise through the Caribbean and went to New England in autumn to see the foliage. On their last trip, Marcus proposed and they have since split their time between their homes in Michigan and Italy – when they’re not traveling together.
Last month, however, their fairy tale-like love was torn apart as Marcus was forced to return to Italy. Currently, he is under investigation by U.S. Immigration, who have not, as of yet, decided whether or not he can return.
“Marco has a tourist visa, not a green card,” Anderssen explained. “He is not allowed to live in the U.S., only pursue tourism.”
Like many other same-sex couples made of bi-national partners, the Anderssens are now faced with the fact that according to U.S. federal laws, Marcus is not allowed to become an American citizen because he lacks the sponsorship that an American spouse could provide.
“He could become a resident were he to marry an American female,” Anderssen said. “Because he married an American male, he has none of the immigration rights freely bestowed upon heterosexual couples.”
Their story, though tragic, is not unique, nor has it gone without notice. The Human Rights Campaign is sponsoring a bill that is in the House of Representatives and Senate right now, gaining exposure and support. Currently, it is supported by 79 representatives.
“At this point in time, roughly three-fourths of the green cards given out every year are given to family members of citizens or permanent residents,” explained Bob Kearney of HRC, who is spearheading the campaign. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would allow same-sex bi-national couples the right to obtain citizenship in the same way that married couples of opposite sexes do, keeping same-sex families together.
Introduced to Congress on May 8, UAFA would enable American citizens to sponsor their same-sex spouses for citizenship, following the same guidelines as current immigration laws. Requirements would include both participants being over 18, financial interdependency and a monogamous relationship.
Penalties for fraud would also be similar, including up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Not surprisingly, opponents of UAFA argue that the bill, if passed, would be a step towards the legalization of same-sex marriages – something the American public has stated that they are not ready to accept.
“The Uniting American Families Act does not equal marriage,” Kearney stressed. “It in no way defines the law.”
He went on to say that of the 19 countries that do afford same-sex couples with sponsorship rights, many of them have not legalized same-sex marriages. For many U.S. citizens in this position, the choice is clear. With opportunities to be together in countries such as Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, England, South African, Sweden and many others, many couples choose to leave, taking their businesses, families and economic contributions with them.
For Anton and Marcus, however, leaving the U.S. is not an option.
“I feel my government regards my legal Canadian marriage to an Italian as inferior and considers my right to sponsor a foreign spouse as inferior,” Anton said. “Marcus is not allowed to express an interest in staying in the U.S.”
“I would like him to be able to have a green card, just as straight international couples have.”
Though Kearney has received numerous e-mails and phone calls in support of UAFA, he says that it is impossible to know how many couples this issue is currently affecting. “We can’t know all the families that are affected by this because so many are forced to hide in the shadows,” he said. “A lot of them don’t come forward because they fear that highlighting their story will jeopardize their ability for the non-citizen to stay in the country.”
Although it is difficult to gain public support, Kearney and HRC are working to obtain a hearing in Congress about UAFA, at which time a same-sex, bi-national couple would come forward and tell their story.
For those who are afraid that fighting will rip their family apart, Immigration Equality, based out of New York, explores alternative options to keep same-sex families together. “While options are limited,” said Kearney, “they’re fantastic.”
Though support and recognition for the issue is growing, Kearney admitted that there’s still a long way to go. “It’s moving along, but the process is tragically slow,” he said.
“It’s difficult to stay that because these families need help now,” Kearney added. “We need to take this issue out of the shadows.”