Federal Court Overrules Board of Immigration Appeals’ Denial of Spousal Petition by Gay Man

Trump appeals court

U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland, an out lesbian whose nomination to the federal bench by President Donald J. Trump was recently confirmed by the Senate, has ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) erred in denying a petition by Thomas Valdivia, Jr., a U.S. citizen, to award spousal residency rights to his husband, Radu Cheslerean, a Romanian citizen.  Valdivia v. Barr, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191616 (N.D. Ill., Nov. 5, 2019). 

The Board, affirming a district director’s decision to deny the petition, rested its ruling on its conclusion that Cheslerean had previously married a woman in order to obtain U.S. immigration benefits.Trump appeals court

The story begins on December 31, 2005, when Cheslerean attended a New Year’s Eve party and met Nina Garcia, whom he married about a month later.  In August 2006, Garcia filed an I-130 Petition with the Immigration Service, seeking U.S. spousal residency rights for her husband. That November, Garcia and Cheslerean went with their lawyer to an interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Chicago.  After the interview, nothing happened until July 31, 2009, when the Chicago office director issued a Notice of Intent to Deny the I-130 petition.  In September 2009, USCIS denied the petition and Garcia appealed to the BIA, which dismissed the appeal in February, 2011.  Several months later, Garcia and Cheslerean divorced.  The Judgment of Divorce states that they “lived separate and apart as of March 15, 2007, and had no children together.

Several years later, Cheslerean married Valdivia on May 17, 2015.  On September 6, 2016, Valdivia filed an I-130 petition on behalf of Cheslerean, and the men were interviewed at the Chicago Field Office on January 12, 2017.  When the office issued a Notice of Intent to Deny, Cheslerean submitted an affidavit explaining his two marriages.  He stated that in his “relationship with Nina, we did not plan ahead, or have insurance or much other evidence of a commingled life because we had very little money, and any savings we had we would just spend.  We were young and immature and didn’t think about the future or plan ahead.”  Describing his relationship with Valdivia, Cheslerean wrote that he grew up in a conservative Christian orthodox family that treated homosexuality as a sin, and “coming to terms with who I am and living my life authentically as a gay man was a painful journey and it took me a lot longer than it takes other gay men these days.”  But the Chicago Director denied Valdivia’s petition in March 2017, and the BIA dismissed his appeal on December 14, 2017, leading to this lawsuit.

The premise for the BIA’s decision is a section of the immigration statute that says a Form I-130 cannot be approved if the beneficiary (in this case Cheslerean) has ever sought immigration benefits based on a marriage entered into to evade immigration laws — what the Immigration Service refers to as a “sham marriage.”  The agency and the BIA concluded that the marriage with Garcia had been for the purpose of getting immigration benefits and was not a genuine marriage.  Cheslerean tells a different story, and in this lawsuit, Valdivia and Cheslerean contend that neither marriage was a sham marriage, each was genuine in its own way, even though the earlier one did not last very long and came apart when Garcia’s I-130 Petition was finally denied by the BIA.

The BIA specifically emphasized an affidavit that Valdivia had filed in 2009 in support of Garcia’s petition of the I-130 on behalf of Cheslerean.  The BIA argued that “Valdivia offered no explanation in his 2017 affidavit (submitted in support of his own I-130 Petition on behalf of Cheslerean) why he did not include his account of the 2007 events in his 2009 affidavit filed in support of Cheslerean’s marriage to Garcia.”  In responding to this lawsuit, BIA argued that the two affidavits “created issues of credibility for all concerned” because Valdivia’s 2017 affidavit “made it obvious that he was being less than fully candid in August of 2009 when he did not disclose the true nature of his relationship to Cheslerean.”

artleonardobservations.com, November 12, 2019 by Arthur Leonard

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More than half of top US newspapers failed to cover Trump’s anti-LGBTQ foster care and adoption rule

Trump anti LGBT

Only 22 of the nation’s top 50 newspapers reported on the November 1 rule allowing discrimination against LGBTQ youth and prospective parents

Most of the top 50 newspapers in the U.S. failed to cover a proposed anti-LGBTQ rule from the Trump-Pence administration’s Department of Health and Human Services that removes language protecting people from discrimination in HHS grant programs, including protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Trump adoption Foster care

The proposed rule, introduced on November 1, will allow federally funded adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to work with prospective LGBTQ parents. The rule will also apply to grants involving “HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, other public health initiatives, health education, prekindergarten programs and more,” according to The Washington Post. HHS said it would begin enforcing the change immediately. 

The Trump-Pence administration’s most recent anti-LGBTQ rule is part of its relentless crusade against the rights of LGBTQ people. Over the past three years, the administration has rolled back federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, health care, education, and employment, among other areas. 

The new anti-LGBTQ rule will have particularly devastating effects on children in the U.S. foster care system. Julie Kruse, director of federal policy at the LGBTQ advocacy group Family Equality, has said that the rule will “further limit the pool of loving homes available to America’s 440,000 foster children.” Considering that LGBTQ youth are already overrepresented in the foster care system and are more likely to face foster care placement instability, it is clear that this rule will further marginalize an already vulnerable population.

A Media Matters review of the top 50 U.S. newspapers — identified by average Sunday circulation according to Pew Research Center — found that 28 did not run a single news report in print or online about the HHS rule following its announcement on November 1 through November 10. These newspapers were:

  • The Arizona Republic, The Boston Globe, The Buffalo News, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Columbus Dispatch, El Nuevo Dia (Puerto Rico), Detroit Free Press, The Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Los Angeles Times, MLive (Michigan), NJ.com (New Jersey), Newsday (New York City), New York Post, The Orange County Register, Omaha World-Herald, The Oregonian, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk), Honolulu Star Advertiser, Chicago Sun-Times, The Post-Standard (Syracuse), Tampa Bay Times, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, and USA Today.

Twenty-two of the top 50 newspapers did feature online or print news articles on the new rule, including running stories from The Associated Press and other wires, from November 1 through November 10:

  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Hartford Courant, The Kansas City Star, The Mercury News, San Antonio Express-News, New York Daily News, The New York Times, Orlando Sentinel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Sacramento Bee, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Two outlets — NJ.com and The Boston Globe — ran op-eds about the rule but no news reporting. 

MediaMetters.org, By Alex Paterson, November 11, 2019

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K-pop star Holland on coming out and providing a voice for LGBTQ people in South Korea

K-pop star Holland

K-pop star Holland is walking the path less travelled with pride.

The South Korean singer, commonly referred to as the ‘first gay K-pop star Holland idol’ in the media, made a massive step for queer representation in his home country when he emerged onto the music scene last year as an out and proud artist, putting his sexuality (and his heart) on the line as he sang about discrimination and wanting to escape to a place where he can love freely on debut single Neverland.K-pop star Holland

The music video featured a same-sex kiss, which disappointingly gained it a 19+ rating in South Korea. Despite this, it still managed to rack up over one million views in under 24 hours, and received a mostly positive response from music fans. Since then, he’s dropped his first mini album, the self-titled Holland, and continues to provide a voice for South Korea’s queer community.

“LGBTQ rights in Korea are still not very progressive in comparison to some other countries,” he explains. “Even the fact I debuted [as an openly gay singer] in Korea gained lots of attention here. I want to be a person of good influence by sharing my story and music with the public, and by interacting with fans.”

As he prepares for his upcoming full-length album – which we’re promised is coming soon – we caught up with Holland to talk about life for the LGBTQ community in South Korea, why it’s so important for him to highlight same-sex romance in his music despite the potential for backlash, and what his experience has been like as an openly gay man in the K-pop industry. 

Congratulations on releasing your first mini album Holland! How does it feel to know that people are listening to it and enjoying it?
I am just so amazed, and I feel so loved, way more than I ever thought I deserved. I also do feel a sense of responsibility and pressure to do better and work harder. I want to be able to reach a point where lots of people accept that I am indeed worthy of love and respect. I am also so grateful for the fans who fully understand what I was trying to say with this album. 

Where did you get your inspiration from when creating the mini album?
It’s a combination of my past relationship history and the messages I’ve wanted to tell my fans. It’s 100% my story, and my story only. I really tried to put all my raw emotions that I have felt over the past year – both before and after my debut. In the end, it’s ultimately myself that inspires my own music. 

daytimes.co.uk, November 11, 2019 by Daniel Megarry

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Ireland to List Both Same-Sex Parents on Child’s Birth Certificate

Ireland gay

There’s a major loophole in Ireland in the Same-sex birth certificate new regulations, however.

Ireland will soon allow both same-sex parents to be listed on their child’s birth certificate for the first time.Ireland gay

On Monday, Health Minister Simon Harris announced that the Emerald Isle will be moving forward with new regulations intended to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ families. Under current policy, only the parent that is biologically related to a child is permitted to have their name printed on the baby’s birth records.

The updated guidelines will make room for same-sex couples who concieve using a sperm donor to both be considered their child’s legal parents.

Under current procedure, a lesbian who uses an anonymous sperm donor to have a baby with her legally wedded wife would have to apply for guardianship to have any rights to the child. Ireland voted in favor of marriage equality in May 2015 in a historic referendum, with 62 percent of voters supporting the freedom to marry.

However, there remain loopholes in the law that will continue to be used to target gay male couples. The proposed updates do not cover same-sex parents who conceieve using IVF, meaning that a gay man will not automatically be deemed his child’s legal guardian if his husband uses an egg donor to have a baby. He would be forced to go through an expensive, taxing legal process to claim that right. 

Equality for Children, a nonprofit which campaigned to raise awareness of the discriminatory policies, blasted the new regulations. In a statement, Founder Ranae Von Meding claimed the updates are “not a win” for same-sex parents.

“The signing of this commencement order has already been delayed seven times over the last five years, and only a fraction of LGBT+ families and their children will be covered by it,” said Von Meding, who has two children with her wife. “My family, along with many others, will continue to be left behind.”

Von Meding told the Irish women’s news site Her that “50 percent of children would be left behind by this legislation.

out.com, November 4, 2019 by Nico Lang

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Adoption Groups Could Turn Away L.G.B.T. Families Under Trump Proposed Adoption Rule

divide chores

The Trump administration seeks to roll back an Obama-era adoption rule that classified sexual orientation and gender identity as classes protected from discrimination.

A proposed rule by the Trump administration would allow foster care and adoption agencies to deny their services to L.G.B.T. families on faith-based grounds.Trump adoption

The proposal would have “enormous” effects and touch the lives of a large number of people, Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality, an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, said on Saturday.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday released the proposed rule, which would roll back a 2016 discriminationregulation instituted by the administration of President Barack Obama that included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Any organization — including foster care and adoption agencies or other entities that get department funding — is “now free to discriminate” if it wants to, Ms. Brogan-Kator said.

The proposed rule could be published in the Federal Register as early as Monday, followed by a 30-day comment period. After that, the comments will close and it will become final rule.

Critics, such as Ms. Brogan-Kator, said the rule would allow organizations to place their personal religious beliefs above the needs of children in their care, but the administration countered that it was not preventing L.G.B.T. people from adopting.

“The administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule that was proposed in the 12 o’clock hour of the last administration that jeopardizes the ability of faith-based providers to continue serving their communities,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith.”

According to the Adoption Network, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. More than 114,000 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated in a report that 114,000 same-sex couples in 2016 were raising children in the United States. Same-sex couples with children were far more likely than different-sex couples with children to have an adopted child, 21.4 percent versus 3 percent, the report found.

nytimes.com by Derrick Bryson Taylor, November 2, 2019

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Kmart Selling Popular Family Doll Sets With Two Dads, Two Moms

Kmart

But online Kmart shoppers don’t get to choose their doll family’s genders.

Kmart Australia recently introduced a line of doll families featuring same-sex parents.same-sex parents

Sydney and Melbourne locations of the Wesfarmers-owned discount department store chain have already reported selling out of the new doll sets, which come with a mom and dad, two moms, or two dads, the Star-Observer reports.

Manufactured by Anko, Kmart Australia’s international house brand, all doll sets include two kids, a baby stroller, a pet, and a picnic basket with food items.

newnownext.com, November 3, 2019 by Brandon Voss

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Northern Ireland Set to Legalize Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

marriage equality

The collapse of local government allowed Parliament to step in and bring the Northern Ireland ’s laws in line with Britain’s principles of human rights.

Traditionally conservative Northern Ireland is about to legalize both abortion and same-sex marriage, a head-snapping about-face that was imposed on the territory by the British Parliament.Ireland gay

The changes, bitterly resisted by anti-abortion and church groups, were mandated in an amendment to a routine bill on governance of Northern Ireland that Parliament passed in July amid a power vacuum created by the collapse of the region’s governing assembly nearly three years ago.

The amendment will go into effect at midnight on Monday, weeks after the High Court in Belfast rebuffed a legal challenge, ruling that Northern Ireland’s 158-year-old abortion laws are incompatible with the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments.

The judgment was a major victory for women’s rights activists, who had felt left behind after the Republic of Ireland voted to legalize abortion last year. Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of its people say they would like abortion to be made available, the regional power-sharing government had blocked abortion reform before collapsing in 2017 over sectarian divides.

British lawmakers saw the political paralysis as an opportunity, and, during a Parliamentary sitting in July, overwhelmingly voted to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion. While both have been hot-button issues in the United States and other countries, same-sex marriage has not stirred the intense reaction in Northern Ireland that the lifting of the abortion ban has.

At the Northern Ireland Assembly’s mammoth building in Stormont on Monday, lawmakers reconvened for the first time in nearly three years in a last-ditch and almost certainly futile attempt to prevent the new abortion law from going into effect.

As they met, groups of activists from both sides of the issue faced off on the grounds outside. “Pro-life, that’s a lie — you don’t care if women die,” one group chanted as opposing protesters held up pictures of fetuses emblazoned across signs that read “Save me, be my voice, please let me live.”

NYTimes.com by Ceylan Yeginsu, October 21, 2019

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France moves to make reproductive technology legal for all

Egg Donor Prices

France moves to make reproductive technology legal for all

Isabelle Laurans and her boyfriend tried for years to have a baby. When nothing else worked, they decided to try France reproductive technology in the form of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. France reproductive technology

But halfway through the process, Laurans’ boyfriend changed his mind. He dumped her the day they were supposed to make the embryo in the lab.

Laurans says she doesn’t remember most of what went through her mind that day. What she does recall is the overwhelming fear that she’d never get to be a mom.

“I was 38. I knew it would be perhaps too late for me if I waited for a new relationship,” she said.

That same day, Laurans says she was on the internet, looking for a Plan B.

“I didn’t want to risk missing out on becoming a mother altogether,” she explained.

So, Laurans decided to get IVF on her own.

One problem, though: In France, single women aren’t allowed to get IVF. They’re also not allowed to freeze their eggs or get artificial insemination. Lesbian couples are also denied access to assisted reproductive technologies. French law only permits these treatments to women in long-term, heterosexual relationships, putting France at odds with most of its European neighbors (though Germany has similar restrictions).

And so in 2015, Laurans traveled to Belgium to get the treatment. She gave birth to a baby girl, Charlotte, later that year. Laurans says she was lucky to be able to do it.

“It was expensive … and it wasn’t easy,” she said. She had to go through two rounds of IVF. It cost her about $5,500 in all. That might seem cheap to Americans who can pay between $10,000-$15,000 per IVF cycle, depending on insurance coverage. But in France, if Laurans had still been with her boyfriend, the treatment would have been free.  

www.PRI.org – October 18, 2019, by Sarah Birnbaum

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The French Court of Final Appeal recognises parents of surrogate twins after 19 years

French court of final appeal

The French Court of Final Appeal has officially acknowledged the sole parenthood of a couple who raised twins borne by a surrogate mother in the United States, ending 19 years of judicial battles for Dominique and Sylvie Mennesson.

The French Court fo Final Appeal decision came after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, and a day after French MPs vote to recognise filiation for surrogacy children born abroad and a day after French MPs voted to recognise parenthood of children born through surrogacy abroad.French court of final appeal

“Victory and relief…our children are no longer ghosts,” said Dominque Mennesson, father of the twins in a reaction to the verdict. “They are now our children legally.”

In 2000, Mennesson and his wife Sylvie, who is infertile, had a successful surrogacy (GPA, or “gestation pour autrui” in French) treatment in the United States. Mennesson’s sperm was implanted in the uterus of an anonymous woman, who bore twins, named Valentina and Fiorella by their parents. 

At the time, judges in California, where the procedure took place, ruled that Dominique Mennesson was the “genetic father” and his wife the “legal mother,” and issued birth certificates and US passports.

 

Punishable

But in France, recourse to surrogacy is illegal to prevent the human body from becoming a “commercial instrument”, with the risk that the child may become an object of a contract.

French law stipulates that surrogacy is punishable by one year prison and a 15,000-euro fine. The French Consulate in Los Angeles, suspecting surrogacy arrangements, therefore refused to enter the certificates of the Mennessons in the French civil register.

By RFI, October 4, 2019

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Trump administration halts visas for same-sex partners of diplomats, UN employees

Unmarried, same-sex partners of diplomats and U.N. employees have until the end the year to get married or leave the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s administration began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations this week — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa. same-sex partners of diplomats

The policy was made effective Monday.

It comes despite the fact that the majority of countries do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries. 

The shift was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month but unveiled in July, according to the State Department. 

The policy shift gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country.

The State Department said in a briefing Tuesday that the policy will affect about 105 families in the USA, 55 of which have links to various international organizations. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats and U.N. employees with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

 

Twelve percent of the 193 U.N. member states represented in New York allow same-sex marriage, according to Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who served under President Barack Obama. 

The Trump administration said the new policy is more consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. The heterosexual partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. employees are also not eligible for U.S. visas.

Critics of the move argued the policy would create hardship for gay couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or offer only civil unions. Those who marry in the USA to secure their visa status could face criminal proceedings once they return to their home nations. 

“Those not yet in the country will need to show they’re married to secure a visa, potentially forcing those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation,” Akshaya Kumar, deputy U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a blog post.

USAToday.com by Kim Hjelmagaard, October 5, 2019

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