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There’s a lot I want to say about the white-washed Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act hearings in Capitol Hill right now, but I’d rather draw your attention to the fact that repealing DOMA does not guarantee immigration benefits for same-sex bi-national couples. Attorney Jordanna Monston provides a small breakdown for us in this article.
This is not to say that we should not repeal DOMA. However, it does support my belief that we should have multiple strategies when advancing a rights-based agenda in our communities. When it comes to LGBTI immigration rights, we need to get rid of the one-year bar for asylum, eliminate “mandatory detention” of all immigrants, pass the Uniting American Families Act, keep fighting to stop the deportation of same-sex bi-national couples. This list is not exhaustive.
Maybe there is a reason beyond oversight and racism for why queer people of color are not up on the Hill testifying to repeal DOMA today. Maybe it simply doesn’t affect our lives in the same way that it helps to bolster white privilege:
It is true that for some immigrants, marriage can be a path to obtaining legal status. However, not only is the process of gaining legal status through marriage contingent on the INS’s recognition of your marriage as one made in “good faith,” but this process also places a great deal of power over an immigrant in the hands of their citizen spouse. The requirement that immigrants prove to the INS that their marriages are legitimate and not just a means to legal status has meant that immigrants of color, who by virtue of the racist discourses surrounding immigration are more likely to be seen as “cheating the system,” often have a much harder time gaining legal status than white immigrants. In addition, many feminist activists within immigrant communities have drawn attention to the ways that an immigrant’s dependency on her citizen spouse for legal status in this country can produce or at least exacerbate exploitation and abuse within a relationship. As a result, in many cases, immigrant women are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between remaining in an abusive relationship or deportation. Given that domestic violence is not only a problem of the straight community, I think it is important that we take seriously the inequalities that gay marriage might produce in relationships between citizens and immigrants. It seems better to me to focus out political energies on fighting for broader changes in immigration policies that might enable immigrants in this country to live better lives regardless of their marital status.
– Priya Kandaswamy, from “Is Gay Marriage Racist? A Conversation With Marlon M. Bailey, Priya Kandaswamy, and Mattie Udora Richardson” in That’s Revolting: Resisting Queer Assimilation, 2004.
Another good read is “How Gays Stay White.”
Unlike Priya, I don’t think “gay marriage” is racist per se. I just think it helps to bolster white privilege and entrench existing problems of race, gender and class. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that people need to be in monogamous life-long relationships to have basic rights.
P.S. I don’t need apologetic white people lining up to tell me how repealing DOMA helps somewhat or how it opens doors. This isn’t your space. It is my space.