As Gay Marriage is Legalized in New York, LGBT Immigrants are Cautiously Optimistic

WhileLGBT immigrant groups celebrated the recent passage of the right for same-sexcouples to marry in New York, their response was more subdued than other gayadvocacy groups. Even though civil rights progress for one group often benefitsthe other, there are still major hurdles same-sex immigrant couples mustovercome to fully participate in the victory.

Immigrantsto the US face discrimination similar to LGBT individuals here –marginalization and prejudice are hallmarks of their shared experience. Eachgroup understands oppression and may feel the necessity to hide theiridentities to protect themselves. However, there is a tension between thesegroups despite their mutual struggles.

Immigrantcommunities, especially their older members, may continue to harborconservative views toward homosexuality. LGBT individuals coming to the US maynot feel comfortable being open about their sexual identities if their primaryaffiliation is to these communities.

Forthose fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual identity, the US canseem like a haven. However, there are numerous challenges facing LGBTimmigrants. First of all, many LGBT individuals fleeing persecution may not beaware of the possibility of applying for asylum, leading many to miss theone-year filing deadline. Second, these individuals often seek out communitiescomposed of people from their home country, preventing them from comfortablyexpressing their sexual identities out of fear of rejection or persecution.Third, LGBT groups in the US may express racial, cultural, or economicprejudice against immigrants, forcing them to remain closeted within theircultural communities.

Additionally,even though gay immigrants in New York may now be able to marry their partners,there are no immigration benefits conferred as a result of that marriage. Untilsame-sex marriage legislation is passed at the federal level, immigrants arenot able to obtain permanent residence or citizenship if they marry a UScitizen. Nor may a gay “green card” holder petition to bring a same-sex partnerfrom another country to the US on a fiancé visa. In many ways, gay immigrants’reality changes little despite this landmark legislation.

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