Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Glenn Greenwald has an article about the real human cost of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration continues to defend in court despite Obama having campaigned on a platform of repealing that law. In particular, the law prevents Americans who have married someone of the same gender from another country from being treated the same as Americans who have married someone of another gender from another country.

Greenwald should know. His spouse is Brazilian and he lives full-time in Brazil because the United States does not recognize their relationship as valid and thus will not give his partner a visa. Brazil does, however, so they live there. But he is very fortunate to have a job that allows him to do that. For many others, they must live apart.

Leaving aside the debate over whether the Obama DOJ should be defending DOMA in court, the human costs from this conduct are severe, though often overlooked. One of the most destructive aspects of DOMA is that it bars gay Americans who are married to a foreign national — an increasingly common situation for Americans generally in a globalized world — from obtaining a marriage-based visa for their same-sex foreign spouse. By contrast, Americans who are married to a foreign national of the opposite sex receive more or less automatic visas and then Green Cards for their spouse, entitling them to live together in the U.S.

Just please watch this two-minute news report, describing the gut-wrenching (though not uncommon) plight of Josh Vandiver, an American citizen, and Henry Velandia, his Venezuelan spouse. Despite their being legally married in Connecticut after four years of living together, Velandia, because of DOMA, is about to be deported to Venezuela, where Vandiver is unable to live and work. In other words, the U.S. Government is about to separate this couple, who want to spend the rest of their lives together, and force them to live on separate continents thousands of miles apart.

Independent of debates over the meaning of “marriage,” what kind of person could possibly watch that and support something like this: the devastating denial of this most basic equality? And this situation is far from uncommon. Although it’s difficult to quantify exactly, a comprehensive report from Human Rights Watch in 2006 documented that the number of gay Americans barred from living in the U.S. with their foreign national spouse is in the “thousands.” And that’s all independent of the denial of a slew of other benefits — including survivors’ benefits for federal benefits — that impose serious suffering and hardship on gay Americans for absolutely no good cause.

For the anti-gay crowd, however, there’s a perfectly good cause for all this. They really do believe that the law must do everything possible to punish gays and make their lives more miserable because The Gay is so overwhelmingly tempting that if you allow gays to live a normal life without suffering, others will be compelled to become gay. Here’s the video he referred to.