While Barack Obama tells his progressive base to blame Republicans for the lack of “change,” in some areas he has simply no excuse. As President, for example, Obama has deported more undocumented immigrants than George W. Bush. And while pressure from activists forced the Obama Administration to lower its priority on DREAM Act-eligible youth and bi-national same-sex couples, the fact remains that we’re still seeing deportations.
As the Administration now refuses to defend DOMA – again, thanks to activists giving him heat – the anti-gay legislation is still used as a basis for deporting immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens. We’ve seen well publicized cases, including San Francisco couple Anthony John Makk & Bradford Wells. But now, one gay man about to lose his Dutch husband (who he married in Connecticut, where same-sex marriage is legal) is running for Congress. And it’s about time …
Meet Mike Williams – one of several Democrats vying for an open congressional seat in northwest Connecticut (vacated by Chris Murphy.) A fourth-generation nutmegger and an assistant professor at Wesleyan University, Williams is also gay – and his husband, Bart Hoedemaker, is a Dutch national living here on a work visa. Hoedemaker will lose his job at the end of September, and under immigration law must leave the country.
Connecticut is one of six states with marriage equality, but that’s irrelevant. Because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) expressly forbids same-sex couples from accessing any rights under the federal government, even if their marriage was legal under state law. So while straight Americans can sponsor their immigrant spouse for a green card (which Mike’s sister will soon do for her Argentinian fiancé), gay couples cannot.
“Most people don’t realize about DOMA,” explained Williams, “they think, well, you’re married in Connecticut, it's fine, and they're shocked to find out that it doesn't matter.”
Ironically, Williams spent two years working as a foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign. As a candidate, Obama campaigned on fully repealing DOMA. “The Obama Administration has been woefully inadequate on LGBT issues and this one in particular,” he told Raw Story. “It’s sad they can’t be supportive of this equality agenda that he speaks so warmly about but has failed to enact.”
But the situation would be even more dire, if progressives didn’t stand up to President Obama. Two years ago, the Justice Department was still defending DOMA with legal arguments equating gay marriage with pedophilia. The White House wanted to wait until Obama’s second term to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and DREAM Act kids were being deported at higher rates. As John Aravosis said at this year’s Netroots Nation: “the progress that has been made is when we have been a royal pain in the ass.”
Politicians respond to pressure, and well-publicized cases – such as San Francisco couple Anthony John Makk & Bradford Wells – have brought a personal side to this debate, that can move those in power. Progressives are their most effective – whether on gay marriage or immigration – when they tell their own story. With Mike Williams running for Congress in Connecticut, his story can help frame this issue in personal terms – and help thousands of loving, bi-national couples.