Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Rita Boyadjian's story: follow-up (Gay marriage: until deportation do us part?)

On 23rd July they will leave US. They are among tens of thousands of bi-national gay couples who are given no other choice but to leave the country to stay together or to split up. “I can’t believe that I’m gonna be a refugee of the United Sates of America”. She is a first generation US citizen of Armenian origin; a successful businesswomen (She paid $1 400 000 taxes to the federal government last year but apparently her “money is not green enough”.)

Outrageous and sad story... I thought that California's historic decision to legalise same-sex marriages will help in cases like her but apparently immigration related legal issues in the US are much more complex and tough, and inhuman... I posted about Rita Boyajian's case a year ago. Back then her partner was pregnant, and she was hesitating into moving to Canada, if necessary. Reuters carries a follow-up to her story a year on... Boyadjian spoke to Reuters [see video below] about her decision to move to Germany so the couple and their nine-month-old baby can stay together.

Reuters - Rita Boyadjian wishes she were in a better mood to celebrate the weddings of fellow gay friends after California began legally marrying same-sex couples last month.

But her partner of six years is a German woman whose U.S. student visa runs out soon. Even if they were to legally marry in California, Margot (not her real name) could not stay in the United States because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage for immigration purposes.

This month the well-to-do couple and their nine-month-old baby will move to Germany so they can stay together.

"It's a little bittersweet, I have to be honest," said Boyadjian, 38, a first-generation American who owns a Hollywood entertainment marketing company.

"I am very happy for my friends and I do know a lot of people who are getting married this summer ... but I am sad that while the celebrations are going on, I have to leave."

Gay rights activists estimate that 40,000 binational gay and lesbian couples in the United States are caught in the same legal limbo. A solution, they say, is years away.

When California's Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage in May, becoming the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-sex nuptials, Boyadjian said she was inundated with congratulatory calls from friends believing the couple's problems were solved.

But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirms that nothing changes with the California court's ruling.

"The couples are married under state laws in California. The federal government does not recognize these marriages for immigration purposes," USCIS spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan told Reuters.

Binational couples could make matters worse if they wed since getting married signals intent to stay in the United States.

"We cannot get married in California without jeopardizing Margot's future visa applications," said Boyadjian.

Indeed, legal experts are telling these couples not to rush to the altar in California, which, unlike Massachusetts, will marry non-resident gays and lesbians.

[…] At least 19 nations worldwide provide some form of immigration benefits to the same-sex partners of citizens and permanent residents, while the U.S. still refuses. They include Canada as well as about a dozen European countries.

*source of photo - Reuters

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