Recently in Federal LGBT policy Category
Just two days ago, I blogged about an announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that it would put on hold decisions about cases involving same-sex binational couples--a seeming big step away from the discriminatory policies based on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that have previously dominated the agency's decision-making. Here's an informative Daily Beast story about the hold.
It didn't exactly seem too good to be true--that status would be reserved for an actual repeal of DOMA. However, the hold was apparently too good for something, and it has already been lifted. USCIS announced on March 30, 2011, through press secretary Christopher S. Bentley, that, "The guidance we were awaiting ... was received last night, so the hold is over," and "we're back to adjudicating cases as we always have." Bentley went on to say that USCIS would continue to "enforce the law," in other words refuse to recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of approving green card applications.
Is this the last word on the subject? Not necessarily. With the Justice Department's new position that DOMA is unconstitutional, plans by members of Congress to seek repeal of DOMA, and various cases challenging DOMA winding their way through the U.S. court system, it's likely that the Supreme Court will rule on DOMA's constitutionality within the next few years--which will of course affect green card applications for married same-sex partners.
On the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, the New York Times ran an article and an op-ed piece about the condition of gay rights in the U.S., both with the same basic premise: the American public is way ahead of the American government on the issue of rights for LGBT people. Adam Nagourney's Political Memo takes President Obama to task for failing to live up to his campaign promises on equality for the LGBT community; Frank Rich's op-ed rightly notes that "It's a press cliché that 'gay supporters' are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be. Gay Americans aren't just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws."
Last week, Representative Barney Frank introduced a new Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House of Representatives. Read about it at Nolo's Employment Law Blog.
And this morning, President Obama is meeting with gay rights leaders at the White House to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. After the disappointments of the past month, that should be an interesting conversation.
Quietly, in my view (page A22 of the New York Times, page A18 of the San Francisco Chronicle), the State Department has promised to offer equal benefits and protections to the same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton acknowledged that "Like all families, our Foreign Service Families come in different configurations."
The news came in a memorandum from Clinton to an association of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers. It's a long time in coming and a welcome change, one that addresses issues of basic fairness and, as Clinton also remarked, one that will support recruitment to the State Department.