After Facing Deportation, Same-Sex Couple Gets Temporary Reprieve
06/11/12 7:34AM Angela Evancie  Download MP3
A bi-national same-sex couple in Dummerston has been given a reprieve on the deportation of one spouse, but advocates say it's only a temporary victory. Early this year, Takako Ueda and Frances Herbert were bracing for Takako's deportation back to her home country of Japan.
Takako's application for a green card had just been denied. Even though she had legally married Frances in Vermont, federal immigration laws governed by the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, meant her nuptials weren't recognized.
In January, the women told VPR that the dilemma was causing them all kinds of stress. "What kind of stress?", asked Frances. "Well, it's astronomical. Financially and emotionally." Ueda added, "Here, in Dummerston, this is the place I belong to."
Six months later, Takako is still at home with Frances. And she's not facing deportation - at least for now. She's been granted deferred action, which means she can live and work in this country for at least two more years.
Steve Ralls is Communications Director for the national advocacy group Immigration Equality. He said Takako will not face any attempts to deport her or separate her from Frances. Last year, the organization rallied around the women's cause, circulating petitions and attracting attention from major news outlets, like CNN.
Immigration Equality also helped the women connect with Vermont's congressional delegation. The delegation wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Takako's behalf. "The only reason they don't have the same kind of rights that, for example, my wife and I would have, is that they're a same-sex couple," Sen. Leahy said. "I don't think that's right." The effort paid off. "The thing that touched me the most was when I called them to tell them that they were going to have this extension," Leahy said.
"Oh my gosh," was Ueda's reaction. "That was [a] really huge surprise. I just had some feeling [that a] miracle [will] happen. And it really happened."
A miracle, but an impermanent one. "It's an important victory in the short term. But this option is temporary. And families need permanent solutions from Congress and from the courts," said Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality.
That's why Immigration Equality filed suit against DOMA last month, on behalf of five same-sex bi-national couples, including Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda. Senator Leahy, meanwhile, is championing a bill that would repeal DOMA - it's called the Respect for Marriage Act. "If that passes, it's actually very simple," Leahy said. "It's going to say that if you have a married couple, if they're married under the laws of the state, then everything from social security to immigration will be the same."
DOMA is coming under increasing fire-district courts have ruled the law unconstitutional twice in the past two weeks - most recently in New York City. Meanwhile, Frances Herbert says her goal is simple. "That all couples are respected, and all couples can be married," she said. "And live happily ever after. Yes, that's what we want!"
For more information about the lawsuit against DOMA visit Immigration Equality.