During the lead-up to the National Equality March on October 10, 2009, I met Shannon of Saratoga, Florida. She was standing in protest in Mt. Vernon Square outside Barack Obama’s speech to the Human Rights Campaign, particularly advocating for immigration reform.
A transcript of our conversation:
Shannon: I’m Shannon from Sarasota, Florida, here trying to demand equal rights.
Irregular Times: And why are you here in particular? What’s the stake for you?
Shannon: I’m in a binational relationship. As a matter of federal law, DOMA only allows marriage between a man and a woman, and federally, it doesn’t allow me, having a same-sex partner from — she’s British, but whatever it is, you can’t sponsor your partner through a civil union or anything because of the law that’s established.
IT: That is a legal inequality that means you can’t sponsor someone you consider to be your life partner…
Shannon: She is my life partner, yes.
IT: … you would marry if you could.
Shannon: Yes, a lot of people have to choose their country over their loved one. It’s like, you either leave your country, because you’re not going to leave the person you love, or… well, three years I’ve been struggling with the relationship, going back and forth and obeying the laws, and trying to…
IT: Three years going back and forth to Britain? So you’ve had to pay a significant economic cost for this.
Shannon: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
IT: And a loss of time? Does it make it hard for you to get the work done that you do?
Shannon: Oh, yes.
IT: So what’s the DC solution? What’s the policy solution?
Shannon: Basically, it’s to pass federal recognition for marriage in all 50 states. Equality. Equal rights for everyone. It has to be on a federal level, though, because even in situations where they allow civil unions, it doesn’t even count! They say, oh, no, it’s not really your spouse. Even though they’ve fought for all these rights to get civil unions, they’re not getting the same rights. So I’m going to have to go to court.
IT: Even if you live in Massachusetts, say, and I know you told me you don’t live in Massachusetts, but if you did…
Shannon: because of DOMA…
IT: because of DOMA, it wouldn’t be recognized federally, and you wouldn’t be able to sponsor your spouse if you were married in Massachusetts.
Shannon: Yes! That’s right. It’s very true. And that’s why it has to happen at a federal level. And even if it did happen in Massachusetts, remember, there are a lot of states out there. I live in Florida, you know, so that’s never…. I just think it’s time that we had equal rights all the way around. If it’s done at the federal level, there’s no overriding equal rights.
IT: Thank you very much.
Shannon: Thank you.
H.R. 1024 and H.R. 2709 are two bills before the Congress to remedy immigration discrimination against lesbian and gay couples. Learn more about them, and the extent to which the LGBT Equality Caucus is in support of them, in report form here.
Those two bills are limited measures. Shannon’s ultimate solution — the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act — has been proposed in Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s H.R. 3567. Check here to see if your representative is a cosponsor. If not: call and ask him or her to cosponsor the bill.