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Cross-post: Going to the Chapel Gay Marriage, Immigration

Imagine 2050 Staff • Feb 14, 2010

Faren D’Abell writes in Windy City Times about the ongoing struggle of LBGT people for equal marriages and the added complication of the flawed immigration system that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to sponsor one another for residency.

In Roman times, the story goes, when military enrollment was down, ‘Claudius the Cruel’ cancelled all weddings and engagements. The Christian priest Saint Valentine secretly married couples, and for this he was murdered.

This week, on Valentine’s Day, thousands of gay couples in committed relationships will again ask their local county clerks for marriage licenses. Groups like Lambda Legal, the National Organization for Women, and Human Rights Campaign have, for years, pushed the idea that equal rights for all includes the rights of GLBT people to marry.

While the city of Chicago has been seen by many as a progressive force for GLBT people, residents like Robert Castillo feel slighted by a seeming runaround when it comes to recognition of same-sex couples. Castillo and his committed partner of 12 years, WCT’s John Pennycuff, say Chicago discriminates when it co-sponsors the Fox News Chicago Valentine’s Day Wedding on Ice promotion.

In its ninth year, Wedding on Ice searches for ‘one lucky bride and groom to marry.’ Fox viewers choose one couple from a group of three who have been pre -selected based on essays. Castillo says the requirement of a marriage certificate to participate in the contest is discriminatory. He brought his concerns to both Fox News in the Morning executive producer Neil Woulfe and James Law from the city’s office of special events. With the program this year being transferred to the Chicago Park District, Castillo says he’s had to start all over.

Outside of city publicity stunts, Castillo says he and others lose financial benefits even from groups that would otherwise be supportive of gay partnerships. ‘John and I are basically responsible for each other—responsible emotionally, physically, and financially. I don’t see that as any different from heterosexual married couples. I actually tried to have John added as a family member atBally’s . They wouldn’t do it unless John had the same last name as I did or unless we had some sort of domestic-partnership registration and the city doesn’t have one,’ he said.

The group that championed the fight in Vermont for civil unions says that domestic partnerships and civil unions are progress, but that the country needs equal marriages for gays and lesbians. ‘Marriage, in the regime we live in, is the only true equality. Civil union was a wonderful breakthrough, but nonetheless in our minds, because it sets up a separate but equal system that makes no sense, it doesn’t work,’ said Gary Buscek , executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). He said the ‘separate but equal’ stance Vermont took highlights the holes left in equality when the state recognizes a union but does not call it a marriage.

One of the holes is in immigration rights. Federal law allows American citizens, in most cases, to sponsor their spouse for immediate residency in the United States. That’s not true for gays and lesbians whose same-sex partners are not American citizens.

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