Is marriage legal or illegal
Legal or illegal?
World time / archive | Article from 07/30/2012
The gay marriage dispute in California
By Jan Tussing
- A gay couple kissing - soon also legally in California? (AP archive)
San Francisco in particular was a magnet for gays and lesbians for many years. Nevertheless, homosexuals in California have not been allowed to marry since a referendum in 2008, but that could soon change again: In February this year, a California court declared the ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional, but it is not yet immediately lifted. The Washington Supreme Court is now expected to pass a landmark judgment.
Tobias comes from the Eifel and has lived in San Francisco for several years. Illegal. His visa has expired. The German has to be careful every day when he goes to work that he is not stopped by the police. The Californian authorities do not check a visa at traffic controls, but if it is found that Tobias lives illegally in the USA, he risks deportation.
"I don't want to see myself as a victim, I went into this situation with my eyes open. I knew what we were doing that would cause problems."
Tobias came to San Francisco 18 years ago and fell in love. Not just in town, but also in Chris, an American. Tobias and Chris have been a couple ever since. They live together, work together and in their company they even have responsibility for some employees.
If they were straight and could get married, Tobias would be the story of a typical immigrant, of whom there are so many in the United States. But because Tobias is gay, he cannot become an American. Gay couples are discriminated against in the US.
In the case of heterosexual couples, the foreign partner acquires the right of residence through marriage. This option does not exist for gay couples. Tobias therefore lives a shadowy existence. Tobias is therefore not his real name. Its very existence is at stake, after all.
"By building a little golden cage for ourselves and building a solid and good life for ourselves, that makes it easier not to think too much about it. In general, it doesn't play a big role in my life."
Tobias is one of twelve million people without a valid residence permit. in the USA.
The issue of illegal immigration is currently a hot topic in the United States and is therefore a hot topic. It not only concerns lawyers and politicians, but also the media.
Illegal immigrants have a stigma in the US. Everyone immediately thinks of Latinos who secretly cross the green border and work black. Nobody thinks of German men who adapt and even pay their taxes on time.
California is home to hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian couples from different countries. You can register as partnerships, but there is still no residence permit or green card. You have to expect to be deported. Only six states allow homosexual couples to marry, and California is not one of them.
But even where gay marriage is allowed, foreign partners do not get a residence permit, because Washington decides on visas. In the Golden State, however, there is a registered partnership and, unlike in Germany, same-sex couples are even allowed to adopt children here.
Amos and Mickey adopted Alicia when she was eight months old. Today she is five and is looking forward to going to an amusement park with her two dads. Amos and Mickey also live in San Francisco and have just celebrated their 17th anniversary.
Amos is from the Philippines and Mickey is from Montana. The two had a relationship at a distance for four years, until Amos decided to move to San Francisco. Like Chris and Tobias. Only with a visitor visa. The US authorities made life difficult for Amos. He had to choose whether to go back to the Philippines or risk living illegally in the United States.
"And so we were looking for another country to emigrate to, some kind of plan B. That was Christmas 2001. Canada is one of 22 countries that allow same-sex couples to immigrate. But then five days after my birthday, on November 11th Our house burned down on June 4th due to faulty cables, and my visa expired on July 4th. It seemed like the universe was calling out to us, 'get this packed, just leave'. "
But then everything turned out differently. Mickey's employer offered him a new, very important job. And Mickey played poker: I will stay and I will accept if you sponsor my friend a green card and also give my friend a job.
"I'm one of the lucky immigrants who got a green card so quickly. Just nine months after filling out the forms."
A little miracle. They adopted Alicia like many other gay couples in the US - and lead a completely normal life. Amos and Mickey are a good example that politicians are once again lagging behind social realities.
In San Francisco, being gay is as normal as seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. And the residents are proud of that. Although rental prices in San Francisco are much more expensive than the surrounding area, Amos and Mickey just don't want to leave.
"We were looking for a bigger house in 2004, but the city is very expensive. We could have had a much bigger house out of town, but because San Francisco is the way it is, we decided to stay here. Everyone will be the same here treated, including children. When we were looking for a kindergarten for Alicia, we asked around: Is it a problem for us as a gay couple to find a school for Alicia. And people looked at in disbelief: Nonsense, that's not an issue at all. But on the other side of the bay there are cities, that's an issue. Stockton or Bakersfield, for example. "
Along with Los Angeles and New York, San Francisco is certainly the most tolerant city in the United States. So tolerant that history has been made here in the gay rights movement for decades. In 2004 a small miracle also happened. The Mayor of San Francisco decided on February 12, 2004 to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Amos and Mickey dared. You were one of the 4,000 couples in front of the San Francisco City Hall.
John and Stewart were also in line at the registry office. When the two men found out about it, they immediately got into the car. John Luis and Stewart Gaffney are both lawyers and have been fighting for equality for gay couples for years. You are both US citizens and legally you do not risk being deported by anti-gay authorities. For them it was just about the feeling, says John.
"It matters how it feels. We are among the first ten couples to get married in 2004. When we got up that morning, we didn't know that San Francisco was opening the door to gay and lesbian couples."
4000 couples were married at that time. They came from all over the US. John still hears the words in his ears today.
"And now, on behalf of the State of California, I'm making you life partners. It really was a moment that transformed me. I got goosebumps. We had a registered partnership, but I never realized what that would feel like. And when we finally got married, I thought for the first time in my life: Yes, my government, in which I believe, treats me for the first time on an equal footing, as a gay person. "
But then came the turning point. On March 11, 2004, just four weeks later, a lawsuit against gay marriage was filed. It marked the premature end for same-sex couples in California and the beginning of a long, nerve-wracking legal battle that continues to this day.
"Our movement for the rights of gays and the right is about our dignity as human beings and about the freedom to choose what your life is about. There is always something that doesn't feel quite equal. Always second class. It it's kind of good, good for California, but it's not really equality. "
A little consolation came four years later. In May 2008, the US Supreme Court dismissed the case, and cheers went through the gay and lesbian community.
John and Stewart were married for the second time, as was Amos and Mickey. They told all their friends and relatives and threw a big party.
"Everyone understood and accepted that our relationship is now a family. It really opened our eyes to what marriage means to outsiders."
In San Francisco, dozens of stalls were set up in the public parks on the day the verdict was pronounced, because the crowd was huge. The day was declared a festival by gay and lesbian activists. Not only in San Francisco, but also in Los Angeles, 18,000 couples have tied the knot since then.
But the joy did not last long. As early as November 2008, the Californians voted against gay marriage in a referendum. Proposition 8 - so the name - forbade gay marriage again. It was election year and Barack Obama was running for Hope and Change.
But while the USA is showing itself to be progressive and a black president is moving into the White House for the first time, the conservative forces prevail in the otherwise progressive California. It was an awful time, said John, who has been with his partner Stewart for 25 years.
"Proposition 8 was a terrible time for us. It meant 35 million people should vote on whether Stewart and I could get married. It was an absurd referendum."
The minds boiled over. 18,000 same-sex couples were officially married. But could and should the marriages actually be annulled?
"In the court sessions, which had to be based on Proposition 8, the supporters of the vote tried to take our marriage away from us. But the court decided, no, that is not what this poll was intended to be and they all have 18,000 marriages confirmed. But still: it was a very humiliating experience: the idea that people you don't even know should judge you. "
Gay marriage sparked the bitterest debates in the United States. Til today. For some especially conservative and religiously minded Americans, the idea of a marriage between two men is a horror. In 42 of the 50 federal states, gay marriage is therefore prohibited, by law or even by the constitution. Legally, the situation in California is still very precarious.
But it is also clear: The referendum - Proposition 8 - is unconstitutional, the appeals court in San Francisco has now decided. But the tide has also turned politically. President Obama has meanwhile spoken out in favor of homosexuals' right to marry, with sharp tongues claiming that his position is catching voters. Or perhaps the president simply knows that the majority of American citizens are in favor of absolute equality for all married couples.
"I don't know why the president changed his mind. Perhaps because, like the majority of Americans, he advocates equality for all marriages. That's great. Of course, it would be nicer if leaders had the courage to voice their views no matter what the people think.
But if more politicians speak out in favor of equal marriage law, not only because it is the right decision, but also because it is popular, then that is a sign of the historical change that we are currently experiencing. "
According to the survey, 60 percent of all Americans are now in favor of equality for homosexual couples. In no country in the world have people's attitudes changed as quickly as here, even if supporters and opponents continue to face each other bitterly. Politicians like Obama or Mitt Romney are making gay marriage a topic of election campaigns. But an end to discrimination is within reach.
If the Supreme Court were to decide in favor of full equality for homosexuals, hundreds of thousands of illegal people in the US could be lifted out of their shadowy existence in one fell swoop. And Tobias could perhaps travel back to Germany to his family without having to worry about not being allowed back into the country.
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