Monday, 17 August 2009

Americans Marry During Amsterdam Gay Pride

Source: On Top Magazine

Amsterdam's Mayor Job Cohen married five American-Dutch gay couples during gay pride to protest U.S. immigration laws on Saturday.

The five couples were married on the “I Do Boat” as tens of thousands of revelers cheered on.

“We want to show to the American public that gay couples cannot get immigration, cannot get equal rights like heterosexual couples can,” Boris Dittrich, the former Dutch lawmaker who introduced a gay marriage bill eight years ago, told Reuters. He sailed on the boat as a guest of the city.

The boat was sponsored by the Amsterdam City Council and the Love Exiles Foundation, a group working for marriage equality in the U.S. for bi-national couples.

The five married Americans are from New York where their marriages might be legal – the state recognizes legal gay marriage – but the couples could not have wed there.

If the couples wish to remain together they will have to live in the Netherlands. Federal law denies gay and lesbian couples the right to sponsor an immigrant spouse to become a U.S. citizen under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Love Exiles Foundation was founded by Americans Martha McDevitt-Pugh and Bob Bragar, who say they are living in exile in the Netherlands to be with the ones they love because the U.S. government will not recognize their Dutch marriages.

An estimated 36,000 bi-national gay couples are denied equal treatment, according to Immigration Equality.

Last month, California Representative Michael Honda introduced the Reuniting Families Act, a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes New York Representative Jerry Nadler's Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow gay Americans to sponsor an immigrant partner for citizenship.

The decision to include the UAFA in the Reuniting Families Act has created a rift among immigration reform backers.

Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), major allies in securing comprehensive immigration reform, decried the gay provisions.

“[The gay provisions are] a slap in the face to those of us who have fought for years for immigration reform,” Reverend Samuel Rodriguez of the NHCLC told

The five newly married couples, now forced to live in exile, will join the chorus of bi-national gay couples and allies asking Congress to pass gay-inclusive immigration reform.

“Hope is all we've got,” said New Yorker Patrick Decker, who married Stephan Hengst.

But even gay rights backers admit they'll have a steep incline to overcome.

“You got two very tough issues – the rights of same-sex couples and immigration,” openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told the Washington Blade. “You put them in the same bill, and it becomes impossible. We just don't have the votes for it.”


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