On the heels of the U.N. council’s resolution supporting equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation Friday, some global scenarios surrounding same-sex marriage have come to light. A significant portion of the LGBT population from the United States, more specifically those in binational couples, have and continue to relocate to more welcoming countries. In most circumstances these are less likely acts of rebellion or distaste for the Mother country, and more acts of necessity. These individuals are known as expatriates and they are a valuable part of our LGBT community.

Granted, a binational couple’s happiness and desire to cohabitate are of high priority, but an equally important consideration is finding a place to call home that will welcome both partners and recognize their relationship – regardless of where it ranks on the spectrum between dating and marriage. It is most common for each member of binational couple to relocate to a third country with gay-friendly immigration laws or accommodating visa programs, if not both. These displaced families include children, senior citizens and every combination in between. They long to be united and protected under the rights that marriage equality would afford them.

The census offers an "unmarried partner" option for the purposes of defining relationships between cohabitants.

According to the Uniting American Families website, most numbers used or reported underrepresent the demographic of binational couples. As of 2009, numbers were still being loosely based on the 2000 census. Because displaced binational couples are not completing a census from outside the US, and because the census only takes an “unmarried partner” into account for the purposes of defining relationships between cohabitants, there is no accurate formula for calculating just how many couples are affected by this scenario.

A 2009 update article, based primarily on guesstimation and some previously used formulas, suggests that 51,445 binational same-sex couples reside in the US; 38,392 live abroad; 4,492 remain geographically separated by law. This adds up to a grand total estimation of 94,330 binational same-sex couples.

Because there is no federal recognition of same-sex marriage in the US, and neither civil unions nor domestic partnerships offer the same rights as marriage, these couples continue to reside in other countries because they have been denied equal rights to immigration based on who they love.

U.N. council passes gay rights resolution
http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/06/17/un.lgbt.rights/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Uniting American Families
http://www.unitingamericanfamilies.net/status-of-uafa/how-many-of-us-are-there/

Immigration Equality and the Uniting American Families Act
http://www.immigrationequality.org/issues/couples-and-families/uniting-american-families-act/

Out 4 Immigration
http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/homepage.html

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Proposition Opposition: voters in favor of marriage equality gather in central Phoenix to express personal and political messages opposing Prop. 102 prior to the November 2008 election.

What’s In A Name?

After conducting the first of what I would consider a biased, yet successful social media friends poll, I have gathered some insight as to if, why and how titles matter in same-sex relationships. Members of the LGBT community have used many different terms to refer the person they love depending on the situation, point in the relationship and stage in the “coming out” process.

A couple who is dating may use boyfriend or girlfriend, easy enough. That, the masses have deemed acceptable. But what happens when you’ve been “dating” for 20 years and publicly professed your love? Does referring to someone of the your same gender as your wife or husband imply that one is satisfied with the legal status of their relationship or does it mean that words like “married” and “spouse” are the very best tools to communicate your love and commitment to the on looking heterosexual world at large?

My poll revealed that it’s complicated, but somewhat consistent. In scenarios that involve medical, legal, tax or insurance services, “partner” seems to be preferred. The logic is that in contexts involving these types of services the term partner is accurate and understood.

In the same breath, these couples admit to using, if not preferring, husband or wife when among other members of the LGBT community or in circumstances with family, straight peers or coworkers in an effort to emphasize the commitment level of their relationship. Of those who expressed a preference for the heteronormative terminology, all have participated in a ceremony, domestic partnership or civil union with the exception of one couple.

Calling each other fiancée until a legal marriage takes place was a unique, accurate and optimistic response. Additionally, the majority of committed same-sex couples expressed interest in marrying once it’s available to them in their home state. Only two of the couples had acquired a marriage license from another state – knowing it would go unrecognized where they currently reside.

In order to be treated as equals a common level of understanding is essential. In these scenarios the words we use to describe each other pack a political punch. Some stereotypes and labels can imply negative connotations, but these titles and terms of endearment are important elements in the quest for equality.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

-Apple Inc. “Think Different” Campaign, 1997

Separate But Not Equal

As of June 1, the United States breaks down to the following classifications on gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Civil Unions:

Delaware – Senate Bill 30 goes into effect Jan 1, 2012.

Hawaii – Senate Bill 232, also known as Act 1, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Illinois, Senate Bill 1716 (Public Act 96-1513) effective June 1, 2011.

Vermont – Senate Bill 115 (Marriage Equality Act), legalized same-sex marriage in May 2009, civil unions have not been available since Sept. 1, 2009.

New Hampshire – House Bill 0436 effective Jan. 1, 2010.

Connecticut – As of Oct. 1, 2010 civil unions were no longer available and previous civil unions are legally considered marriages.

New Jersey – Allows both Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships.

Domestic Partnerships:

California – Assembly Bill 205, effective Jan. 1, 2005.

Oregon – Oregon Family Fairness Act, Public Law 99, House Bill 2007, effective Jan. 1, 2008

Washington – Chapter 26.60 RCW (2007) and Referendum 71, effective 2009.

Maine – Same-sex marriage was repealed Nov. 3, 2009 under Initiative 1. Domestic partners are currently afforded limited protected under Chapter 701, Title 22, Section 2710.

Hawaii  – Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationship, effective July 8, 1997.

District of Columbia – allows same-sex marriages and recognized same-sex marriages issued in other states, effective 2009.

Nevada – Senate Bill 283 recognized a domestic partner registry, effective June 2009.

Wisconsin  – 2009 Wisconsin Act 28, Assembly Bill 75, Section 774 established a domestic partnership registry, June 2009. Wisconsin constitution was also amended to define marriage between one man and one woman.

States without law prohibiting same-sex marriage:

Connecticut
District of Columbia
Iowa
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
Vermont

States that define marriage between one man and one woman:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Information subject to change.

Current information courtesy of National Conference of State Legislatures

Proposition Opposition

Prop. 102 nearly mirrors the state's previous Prop. 107, which voters rejected in 2006.

It was a late fall afternoon in 2008. One facebook post turned into a dozen, each of these leading to a dozen more text messages. “Meet at the corner of Central and Camelback,” it said, “bring signs.” Under the orchestration of dedicated community members, voters opposed to Arizona’s Proposition 102 hit the streets to spread awareness before the November 4th election day.

Unfortunately, Arizona voters passed Prop. 102 by more than 250,000 votes. These photos capture the unity, love and ambition behind the proposition’s opposition. The fight continues …

Voters opposed to Proposition 102 gather in Central Phoenix.

Parents and children turned out together for the cause.

Prop. 102 amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Arizonans in favor of marriage equality opposed Proposition 102.

The large group attracts local media attention.

Supporters of same-sex marriage shared their message with the media.

The fight for marriage equality is political and personal to those affected.

Signs carried by anti-prop102 voters displayed messages of love.

Those in favor of marriage equality continue to inspire and educate long after sunset.

With this ring, I thee reciprocal beneficiary

Marriage. Wedding. Spouse. With some exceptions in language and culture, these terms are nearly universal. In the United States these terms are central to more than one thousand rights afforded to a wedded couple and they convey one single act and meaning.

Domestic Partnership. Civil Union. Commitment Ceremony. Now the rest of the country is scratching their heads. Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act prevents consistent understanding of these words due to the federal government’s lack of same-sex marriage recognition. This leaves a state-by-state jigsaw puzzle of rights, acknowledgment and, in many cases, nothing.

For example:

As of June 1, 2011, Illinois defines a domestic partnership as a legal union and has adopted laws similar to those of California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. While the Phoenix Domestic Partner Registry merely grants hospital visitation rights to the named partner, exclusively in the city of Phoenix. This seems to be a blatant double standard intended to water down the importance and effectiveness of the term and the understanding of the voting public.

Civil Unions vs. Domestic Partnerships

Wait, it gets better.

Washington State issues business card-sized replicas of the actual domestic partnership license. As they should, I am sure there are many occasions where carrying proof of your legally recognized relationship could come in handy. And in the State of Hawaii a civil union is formally called a Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationship. Really? Would any of this be necessary if same-sex relationships were truly considered equal?

So, once you’ve found a cozy spot on the map to settle down with your committed significant other/life partner/unlawfully wedded, you’ve filed for your local applicable certificate entitling you to somerights and thrown a ceremony celebrating your love and your union, then you realize you’re not protected anywhere else in the world … unless you happen to be in Rhode Island, New York, Maryland.

Community Church of Hope, Phoenix