Gay Rights Are Human Rights
It’s been a phenomenal pride weekend here in San Francisco, especially in light of the historic Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage is a legal right across the U.S. A friend asked me yesterday how that ruling affects immigration law. It actually doesn’t have a direct impact as did the ruling two years ago (on the same date, June 26), striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. Since that time, USCIS has been granting permanent residence to same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens. The latest ruling prevents the 14 states with bans on same-sex marriage from enforcing those laws, thus allowing people to marry or have their marriages from other states recognized.
While some argue against the ruling on a legal basis, or because they believe that the federal government should not legislate personal issues, or because they are in favor of states’ rights, I believe it was the right decision as a human rights issue. As Hillary Clinton said in a speech a few years back, and tweeted yesterday, gay rights are human rights. We immigration lawyers, for example, know that persecution based on homosexuality can be a basis for being granted political asylum in the United States.
Given that the ruling was immediately prior to Pride weekend, the mood has been nothing but celebratory here in San Francisco. I often feel like I live in a bubble here, because people are tolerant for the most part. I forget that it is not like that in other places. Yesterday, my husband and I had to explain to our daughter that gay people have historically faced discrimination, and what the pride movement is all about. That led to having to explain to her that “brown-skinned” people have faced discrimination as well. Kids of her age seem to have to come up with that term on their own when describing people of color because us parents nowadays don’t refer to people by their skin color. In much the same way, they say “yellow-haired” instead of blonde. Finally, I also explained to her that women also face discrimination, and don’t earn the same pay as men for the same jobs. My daughter asked “Why? Why are people discriminated against?” I could only say, “I don’t know. I don’t know”, and shook my head. I know that I could intellectualize it and give a list of reasons, but in my heart I was really at a loss for words as to why a human being could be so cruel to another. There is still a long way to go, but I am hopeful that the tide is turning.
By Grace Alano. Grace Alano is an immigration lawyer at Alano Immigration in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+