by Otts Bolisay, Communications Specialist, OneAmerica
Follow them on Twitter: @ottsatwork @weareoneamerica
“You and Ken got married? So you’re a citizen now!”
A typical reaction. Sweet, really. But it doesn’t work that way.
Ken’s a US Citizen. I’m not. And though we finally got married last year, my status in this country doesn’t automatically and immediately change. That would be too easy, and our immigration laws are anything but.
The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), though, that’s huge.
It means that as my husband, Ken can now sponsor me to stay in the country. Just as straight US Citizens can sponsor their foreign spouses. You see, immigration is a federal right. And even though R74’s passage in 2012 allowed LGBT folks to marry here in Washington, that was only on the state level. On the federal level, our marriage would not have been recognized for immigration purposes.
Which meant Ken and I celebrated with you all, back in November 2012 when R74 passed. But we also despaired too, because I would still need to leave the country when my visa expired. It wouldn’t matter if we got married.
But then came June 26, 2013: the repeal of DOMA. It meant stability, permanence, not feeling like the clock was counting down on our future, on life. It meant a sense of true belonging.
There’s still a process to follow, though, lots of paperwork to fill out and many, many fees to pay before I can get a green card. Even then, I have to wait 5 years to become a US Citizen.
So, no, I’m not a citizen now. I don’t even have a green card yet. It’s a convoluted process that becomes even more so if you happen to be undocumented, or trans, or low-income.
Which is why I wanted to host a workshop. I work at OneAmerica, Washington State’s largest immigrant rights organization. We stood with Equal Rights Washington and the marriage campaign, reaching out to our base all over the state to make sure that we had the votes to pass R74. ¡Si se puede!
Recognizing that LGBT immigrants (like me!) exist, we wanted to share some real-life experiences of LGBT couples who are going through the green card process via marriage. There’s lots of confusion out there, and misinformation. You don’t wanna mess around with this stuff.
So come out on March 11 to our workshop. GSBA is a sponsor!
Read more about Otts and Ken and their journey in this KUOW piece from last year.