Asians, Gay Marriage, and Immigration: Family Unification at a Crossroads01 January 2005
Family unification has long been a significant component of U.S. immigration policy, and the Asian Pacific American (APA) community has long been a champion of laws that strengthen America's commitment to this goal. The recent emergence of same-gender marriages among state and local governments has caused society to consider more closely its definition of the family, challenging the traditional notion that only civil unions between heterosexuals should be celebrated. But because U.S. immigration law does not include a gay or lesbian partner within its statutory definition of spouse, binational same-gender couples may not legally remain in the country together, even if they have been married under favorable domestic or foreign law. Aside from burdening the close to 36,000 binational same-gender couples in the nation today, restrictive U.S. immigration policies pose a particular dilemma to APAs who otherwise advocate family unity, yet embrace more traditional notions of the family. That is because traditional conceptions of marriage and the family may wreak havoc on the approximately 16,000 binational couples in which the foreign partner is Asian. APAs who clamor for family-friendly immigration policies but temper their advocacy with tradition create a risk of deportation for thousands of gay and lesbian Asian immigrants with whom they should seek to build coalitions. Advocating a traditional view of family unity thus endangers the immigration status of tens of thousands of Asian gays and lesbians, undermining claims to family unification the APA community has long valued.