May 11, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 19
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Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020



Demoted to fourth-class citizenship
Demoted to fourth-class citizenship
Only months into the Bush administration, the U.S. quietly began recognizing same-sex domestic partners, so long as they weren't Americans

by Chris Crain - SGN Contributing Writer

I discovered recently that I'm actually a fourth class citizen of the United States, at least in terms of how the government treats my relationship.

We all know who the first class citizens are: those storybook male-female couples, who can enter into government sanctioned and protected marriages after long and careful courtships, or Vegas one-night stands. Either way, literally hundreds of rights, responsibilities and protections are there for the taking; all it takes is a blood test and "I do."

Same-sex couples are America's second class citizens, of course. No matter how long-term (or short) or committed and exclusive (or non-monagamous) they may be, same-sex couples cannot obtain all the rights and benefits of marriage, even in Massachusetts where they can marry. The notorious Defense of Marriage Act makes sure that Uncle Sam says "Oh no you don't" even in the one state Gay couples can say "I do."

These days, fortunately for some, there are actually tiers of second-class citizenship. If you live in (or are willing to move to) New England, parts of the Northeast and the West, as well as our nation's capital, you can manage to find "marriage-lite," whether it's called a civil union or a domestic partnership. The same can't be said for Southerners, Midwesterners and the rest of the country, where only a few local governments offer a symbolic registry or a few piddling D.P. benefits.

For a couple of years now, I've thought of myself as a third-class citizen of sorts. I fell in love with a foreigner and, following my heart and not my head (for once), pursued a relationship.

Since U.S. immigration laws don't permit me to sponsor my partner for citizenship, he can't come to America to be with me. In fact, our relationship counts against his chances, since the more "ties" he has with this country, the more he has to prove additional "ties" to his home country; otherwise our government doesn't believe he will honor the length of his visa, whether to work, study or even just visit.

As bad as that is, I recently found I'd been demoted to fourth-class citizenship, and I'm not alone. Americans in "binational relationships" - finally I'm "bi" after all those early years of pretending! - were actually knocked quietly down a notch in the relationship pecking order six years ago, soon after George W. Bush was first sworn into office.

Believe it or not, it wasn't because of some anti-Gay measure Bush slipped into the law. Remarkably enough, it came as a very rare form of official U.S. recognition for same-sex couples, and it was even in the nation's immigration laws. The lucky Gay beneficiaries? Non-Americans.

That's right. Way back in July 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell signed a communiqué that made official the availability of visas for the "cohabitating partners" of non-Americans working temporarily in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, it wasn't a schizophrenic bout of homo-sympathy that led the State Department to create this special B-2 visa. The reason was green, not pink. American businesses lobbied the government to create the visa category because so many post-mod Western Europeans are waiting until much later to marry, or in many cases not marrying at all. And, of course, there are many talented Gay non-Americans who have resisted working in the U.S. if their partners had to stay home.

So to keep the U.S. competitive in recruiting, the B-2 visa was born. So a Gay German who gets a job with IBM can bring his partner to the U.S. with him to live, but a Gay American like me has to leave the country to live with my other half. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy for Hans the Homo and his "cohabitating partner"; I just wish I didn't have to move to South America to cohabitate with mine.

Perhaps it will take U.S. corporations recognizing a Gay brain drain of Americans living in exile to be with their partners before our government finally acts. With money as the motivators, there may be hope for us homegrown homosexuals after all.

The vehicle is there: the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow Gay Americans to sponsor their "permanent partners" to come live in the U.S., was reintroduced this week into a decidedly Gay-friendlier Congress.

Still, even some sympathetic politicians warn that UAFA is the political perfect storm - combining Gay marriage and immigration, two of today's most divisive social issues. And maybe it is too hot to handle. How else to explain why neither Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are on record supporting UAFA, even though both have said repeatedly that Gay couples should be "fully equal" except for the name "marriage."

We should call them 89-percent'ers. Both Clinton and Obama received 89's on HRC's last congressional report card, and UAFA was the only thing keeping them from a perfect score. They're not alone. By my count there are 17 of these 89-percent'ers in the Senate alone, and five more for whom UAFA is one of only two blackmarks.

If those 22 joined their 13 fellow senators who are already cosponsoring UAFA, then the light doesn't seem so far down the tunnel - even for us fourth-class citizens.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and Gay publications in three other cities. He can be reached via his blog at

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