Thursday, July 28, 2011

Josh Vandiver & Henry Velandia and Courage Campaign Ask Senator Robert Menendez to Support DOMA Repeal

Josh and Henry photographed in May in New Jersey's Liberty State Park (Jonathan Ystad/GetEqual)

Today Josh and Henry teamed up with Courage Campaign launching an effort to persuade their United States Senator Robert Menendez to join 29 other member of the Senate and become a co-sponsor of the DOMA repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. Josh and Henry point out in their letter to the Senator that DOMA is tearing apart married gay and lesbian binational couples. Senator Menendez is an ally of the LGBT community and is the co-author of the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently pending in the Senate that includes a provision that would allow for the immigration of partners of lesbian and gay Americans and permanent residents, however he has not joined the fight for repeal of DOMA. Last week the President formally endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act and the Senate Judiciary Committee held its historic DOMA repeal hearing. It is time for every supporter of LGBT equality to stand up and fight for repeal of DOMA. Call Senator Menendez at 202-224-4744 and tell him about the hardship caused to you by DOMA.

Dear Senator Menendez,

We write as a married same-sex couple on behalf of ourselves and many other New Jersey families who are being denied equality, out of concern over a particular piece of legislation.

Sen. Feinstein has introduced S. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the odious “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA. We know you are a supporter of equality for same-sex couples, Sen. Menendez. What’s more, as the lead sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes the Uniting American Families Act, you know that ending DOMA would eliminate the discrimination in immigration law that nearly forced Henry's deportation, even though we are legally married.

It is therefore with surprise that we learned you are not one of the 29 Senators who publicly support the Respect for Marriage Act. As you know, Senator, this issue would permit the tens of thousands of same-sex couples -- many of whom live in New Jersey -- to have access to the over 1,100 federal rights and benefits to which heterosexual couples are entitled. These include Social Security benefits, health insurance, immigration benefits, tax provisions, and more. These benefits would strengthen New Jersey families by providing tools that help loving, committed couples and their families to take care of each other. What’s more, if the Respect for Marriage Act becomes law, this recognition would not stop when couples cross state lines -- the lawful relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples could be recognized in all 50 states.

Through our Stop The Deportations project we've joined with other same-sex bi-national couples who are being denied immigration benefits due to DOMA. Many are facing the nightmare of deportation and separation because of DOMA. We hope it's an oversight that you have not yet joined your colleague Sen. Lautenberg in co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act, Sen. Menendez. We, along with supporters of equality across the country, look forward to your prompt reply.

With respect,

Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia
Princeton, NJ

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