LGIRTF - Lesbian/Gay Immigration Rights Task Force (USA)

Who we are and what we do

The Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, Inc. is a non-profit organization, headquartered in New York City, with chapters in many cities across the country. It was first convened in 1993 by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and The Center International Lesbian and Gay Association, and is advocating the reform of discriminatory immigration laws in the USA.

A key part of this effort includes collecting personal stories from couples, as well as other information, that can be used to educate people, particularly those in the broader lesbigay community and those involved in "straight" immigration groups. The national organization is divided into local chapters. See the appropriate chapter for details of what is happening in your area.

Main Activities

This section lists the main issues that concern us. It also highlights the primary action we are taking nationally. Contact your local chapter to participate, or to obtain further information.

Many of the local chapters will have additional activities to those listed here. Check out what they are doing by visiting their pages. See the list of chapters at the bottom of this page.

The Issues

The Immigration and Nationality Act permits the immigration of a foreign spouse, recognizing the basic right of Americans to live with their loved ones in this country.

This law discriminates against lesbian and gay people by preventing us from living with loved ones who happen to be foreign citizens. Just as this law permits so many heterosexual couples to be together, it separates many of us from our loved ones because it does not recognize our foreign partners as family.

The USA still excludes individuals with HIV from immigating. This HIV exclusion can be waived for heterosexual spouses, yet until same-gender couples are recognized by immigration law, no such waiver is available to us. Same-sex couples cannot yet marry anywhere in the United States. Even if the battle to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii and possibly Washington, D.C., succeeds it may take years to persuade the INS to recognize these marriages for immigration purposes.

That means many same-sex bi-national couples must live apart for long periods of time, perhaps years or decades, until the foreign partner finds some other way to get a green card. Or they live together in the United States, but only if the foreign partner buys a few years at a time by getting temporary work or study visas--or stays illegally, giving up a career and further education.

For many couples, even assuming the foreign partner has the skills to get a work visa, or the money to pay for tuition so he or she can get a student visa, or the money to stay illegally without work, buying time may not be enough to be happy. They are always conscious of time running out. They may feel there is little point in making concrete choices in preparation for the future--buying a house, adopting children, getting pets--because they can't be sure what country they will have to live in a few years later, or if they will be able to stay together at all. The foreign partner may choose a field of study in school based not on his or her interests but on what is likely to lead to a job that may get him or her a green card-- even if it is a job he or she would hate.

What we want

Recognition of Lesbian and Gay Families

Immigration law should apply equally, without exception. to lesbian and gay couples, and their families.

Already many other countries recognize lesbian and gay couples for immigration purposes. Lesbian and gay couples and their children should be able to live together here, fulfilling one stated purpose of immigration law: family unity.

Repeal of the HIV ban

Current U.S. immigration law denies entry to immigrants who test positive for HIV.

The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Commission on AIDS oppose this ban as discriminatory against people living with HIV/AIDS and ineffective in halting the spread of HIV.

Grant Asylum Rights

Foreigners with a well-founded fear of persecution qualify for asylum in the U.S. Gays and lesbians around the world face state -sponsored penalties, torture, and death for their sexual orientation. Like others who seek refuge in the U.S., persecuted lesbians and gays should be granted asylum in the U.S. The Attorney General has said that gay men and lesbians should qualify under these provisions.

Current Campaigns/Action

The Film Project

The following is the text of a press release from LGIRTF, dated September 1, 1995. It concerns the release of an information movie based on the issues outlined above.

The film consists of moving, sad and sometimes funny interviews with four binational couples struggling to stay together in this country despite unfair immigration laws which threaten to separate them. [It] was produced and directed by Elizabeth R. Bird an independent film maker who lives in New York City. Besides the couples interviewed, the film also contains interviews with gay and lesbian activists, including Evan Wolfson, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is co-counsel on the pending Hawaii marriage case.

"The purpose of the film is to demonstrate how our lives and relationships are being destroyed because we cannot marry"
explains Task Force national coordinator, Lavi Soloway.
"We have to educate ourselves and the public to understand why we are fighting for the freedom to marry. The couples depicted in the film just happened to be from different countries, and they are trying, against all odds, to stay together. This is a compelling and moving drama, revealing the devastating results of discrimination."

National Story Collection Drive

If you have felt the frustration of discriminatory immigration laws, you can do something to fight for change.

Barney Frank, an out gay congressperson from Massachusetts, has told the task force that the best thing we can do is to form coalitions across the United States at a grassroots level to create a movement for change. This means establishing chapters of the task force in regions across the United States. These chapters will participate in local grassroots organizing, provide a support group for same-sex bi-national couples, and collect more personal stories from these couples.

Write your own personal story to document accurately the impact of the current law on your life and send it to us. For couples, this would include a general description of how you met, how long and under what circumstances you have been together, and what frustrations have been caused by the immigration law's refusal to recognize your relationship. You may use pseudonyms. Send your stories to any chapter of the Task Force as soon as possible. All stories will be kept confidential.

Local Chapters of LGIRTF

Starting Your Own Local Chapter

If your area does not have a local chapter and you would like to assist in starting one write to:
Lesbian and Gay Immigration and Asylum Rights Task Force
P.O. Box 7741
New York, NY 10116-7741

Telephone: Lavi Soloway (212) 802 7264
Fax: (212) 227 9564
Email: lgirtf@dorsai.org
Website: www.lgirtf.org

You can also use this address to request information on the task force, to submit your story about your own immigration fight or to send donations.

Please remember that the immigration rights task force is staffed entirely by very busy volunteers!

Text Archive

The QRD also maintains a text archive of mail messages, newsletters, and other information concerning LGIRTF chapters.
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Last Update 03/03/97