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 Diane Silver
Remember these people: Shirley Tan, Jay Mercado and their twin 12-year-old sons. They are just a few of the souls whose lives are being torn apart because President Barack Obama has yet to deliver the change he promised, and Congress is either (a) preoccupied or (b) balking at voting on fair laws.
Tan and Mercado of Pacifica, Calif., had the bad luck to fall in love 23 years ago, instead of waiting until Obama and the new Democratic Congress got their act together. Mercado is a U.S. citizen. Tan is a citizen of the Philippines. If the two women were an opposite sex couple, Mercado could sponsor her spouse for permanent residency. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex partners can’t do that.
The result? Their two sons watched as their mother was taken away in handcuffs by immigration agents in January. Although Tan has been released, she faces deportation on April 22 and being forced to go 7,000 miles away from her children and the love of her life.
“It’s not only me who they are punishing,” Tan told the “San Jose Mercury News.” “It is mainly my kids, because they are innocent. They are the ones suffering.”
Repealing DOMA would solve the family’s problems. Passing the Uniting American Families Act would do the same. But the bill lacks the votes to win in either chamber of Congress, so it sits, dead in the political water, while Tan and Mercado, their children, and an estimated nearly 36,000 other bi-national couples face impossible choices. Nearly half of those couples have children under 18, according to a study of the 2000 Census by UCLA’s Williams Institute.
Unfortunately, those children aren’t alone in their suffering. In the same month Obama was inaugurated, 11 members of the military lost their careers to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbians and gays serving openly. We don’t yet know the number of patriots who lost their livelihoods in February, March and April because of a law Obama promised to change.
We also don’t know how many GLBT Americans are losing jobs and have no legal recourse because Congress has yet to act on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
We don’t know the number of gays and lesbians who are losing pension benefits and Social Security death benefits because their spouses are the wrong sex. DOMA forbids any kind of equality for same-sex married couples.
We don’t know how many hate crimes are not being punished fully because the attack occurred in a state where assaults motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity don’t count as hate.
Marc Ambinder, who covers Washington for “The Atlantic” online, reports that unnamed “senior administration officials and Democrats who advise the White House” say the Obama Administration does have a GLBT plan. First, Obama will sign an executive order strengthening protections on the job. That will come sometime soon, Ambinder says. Since an executive order only extends to federal employees, however, such an action will still leave millions out in the cold.
The hate crime bill, with transgender people included, has the support to pass Congress and be signed into law “later this year,” possibly by Memorial Day, Ambinder says. ENDA, including transgender protections, can pass the House soon, but it may not have enough votes in the Senate. The administration probably won’t even tackle “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until after the 2010 elections, Ambinder reports.
Repealing DOMA or passing the immigration equality bill doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s agenda. Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank recently told http://www.365gay.com that tackling DOMA will have to wait for a change in the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is a tiny bit of hope in these news reports, but that hope doesn’t match our expectations for an Obama administration, or our need.
I’ve been involved in politics too long to be naive. I know that progress, particularly on human rights, comes step by agonizing step. Moving forward can take years, decades, even centuries. And yes, I have noticed that the recession/depression and the two wars are sucking the air away from every other issue in Washington, D.C. But I worry about the hapless people whose lives are being ground up by old laws while we wait for new ones to pass.
“It’s like our lives were ruined,” Mercado told the “Bay Area Reporter.”
As we celebrate this month’s victory for marriage equality in the Iowa Supreme Court, let’s also remember the people who are being left behind. What reparations will Tan and Mercado and thousands of other GLBT people get for having the poor timing to fall prey to bad laws before Obama and Congress act?
Do we build these folks towering monuments? Do we put their names on a wall? Or, do we simply sit down, put our faces in our hands and cry.