Anti-immigrant rhetoric frequently dehumanizes immigrants, erroneously reducing them to individuals who only take from our society without giving and ignoring the valuable contributions immigrants make as workers, spouses, parents, and friends. Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) often cite family values as a rationale for denying same-sex couples legal recognition, human dignity, and equal rights. Yet denying individuals the right to have a family just because of who they love—and denying children homes just because of who their parents love—is truly at odds with family values.
We applaud efforts like that of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who, along with 132 members of the House of Representatives, recently filed an amicus brief in the pending court case challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. Although the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder announced earlier this year their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice has abandoned its defense of the legislation in several court cases, others in government have deemed state non-recognition of same-sex couples and their children a priority. But attention is not the only resource diverted to this debate: in these times of economic austerity and deep cuts to cutting social safety programs, the original salary cap for legal counsel defending the constitutionality of DOMA have been tripled to a maximum of $1.5 million. On November 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take another step in this important fight against DOMA as committee members begin debate and mark-up on S. 598—a bill that would repeal Section 3 of DOMA and incorporate language that provides for some same-sex relationship recognition under federal law. Bringing down DOMA is integral to recognizing the invaluable contributions that immigrants and LGBTQ—and their families—make in the United States.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer-identified (LGBTQ) Latin@s suffer particular hardships in our current climate of anti-LGBTQ rights and anti-immigrant sentiment. LGBTQ Latin@ households are particularly likely to be binational, meaning that one of the partners is a non-citizen, or mixed-status, meaning that one of the parents is a non-citizen and one of the children is a citizen. As a result, LGBTQ Latin@s are caught in not one but two dysfunctional systems. On the one hand, DOMA continues to violate the human rights of individuals in same-sex relationships. And on the other, the immigration system increasingly operates on the basis of racial profiling, “legally” (but unconstitutionally) ignores LGBTQ family relationships, and inhumanely separates partners, parents, children, and families.
DOMA defines marriage as being between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law. Because immigration law is federal law, DOMA has particularly harsh effects for binational same-sex couples, many of which include LGBTQ Latin@s and 46% of whom are raising children. Fortunately, DOMA has not stopped more progressive states from recognizing the equal (or at least less unequal) rights of same-sex couples. Unfortunately, it has provided legal backing for states to pass legislation at the state level that is functionally similar to DOMA, denying LGBTQ couples relationship recognition, reducing their access to public benefits, and creating unstable households for the roughly 2 million children raised in LGBTQ families today.
We stand for the proposition that all people have the right to have children, the right to not have children, and the right to parent the children they already have. We stand with immigrants, LGBTQ, and their families and strive to ensure these groups are treated with dignity under the law, rather than being treated as underclasses. We see every step towards bringing down DOMA as a step in the right direction.