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READ: Open Letter to Obama From Exiled Binational Couples in South Africa

By Sunnivie Brydum

Several binational gay and lesbian couples now living in South Africa penned a scathing open letter to President Obama Saturday, asking the commander-in-chief for an explanation as to why his administration advised Senate Democrats to drop an LGBT-inclusive amendment from the pending immigration reform bill.

Democrats on the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" committee debating the bill last week said they believed Republican threats to filibuster the sweeping immigration reform bill if it included protections for Americans married to someone of the same sex. 

Dan Brotman, a gay man originally from Lexington, Mass., reached out to The Advocate to share the open letter he and several other binational LGBT couples living in South Africa wrote demanding answers from the President. South Africa was the fifth country worldwide, and the first nation in Africa, to legalize same-sex marriages when it enacted the Civil Union Act in 2006. 

Asking for a meeting with Obama when he visits South Africa next month, Brotman and his allies want the President "to meet couples whose futures now solely depend on the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, and whom your administration traded as a bargaining chip for political expediency."

Brotman writes that Obama and congressional Democrats "caved into bigotry," by asking Leahy to rescind an amendment he proposed that would essentially carve out an exemption to DOMA and allow legally married binational couples to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for citizenship the same way heterosexual Americans can. 

Read the complete open letter on the next page. 


Dear President Obama,

Due to the exclusion of same-sex binational couples in U.S. immigration law and your administration’s decision to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, we have been given no choice but to reside outside the United States.

Since 1999, South Africa has allowed its citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex foreign partners for residency. In the absence of the same protection under U.S. law, South Africa became the only country where we and our partners could legally live in the same country.

Despite your recent statement that, “I think that this provision is the right thing to do,” it has been reported that your administration nonetheless advised Sen. Patrick Leahy to not call for a vote that would have protected our families and ensured our swift return to the United States. The inclusion of same-sex binational couples in comprehensive immigration reform was our last hope, should the Supreme Court uphold the Defense of Marriage Act next month.

We have been failed by both the Senate and the Democratic Party; the latter we expected to support us during our greatest moment in immigration reform history. We would love nothing more than to have the fundamental right to live in our own country with our partners, where we would be creating jobs and contributing to the economy and society.

When Senator Leahy introduced the amendment which would have protected us, he highlighted the heart-wrenching dilemma in which same-sex binational couples are placed: “I do not believe we should ask Americans to choose between the love of their life and love of their country.” Yet, this is exactly what your administration asked us to do when it caved into bigotry and asked Senator Leahy to not call for a vote on the amendment.

We invite you to meet with our group on your state visit next month to South Africa. We would like you to meet couples whose futures now solely depend on the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, and whom your administration traded as a bargaining chip for political expediency. We would like you to look us in the eye and explain exactly what steps your administration is taking to allow us and our foreign partners to live in the United States, which is a right enjoyed by the vast majority of American citizens.

Dan Brotman, Massachusetts, now Cape Town

William Daniels, Ohio, now Cape Town

Carol Lipshitz, Pennsylvania, now Cape Town

Michael McDonald, New York, now Cape Town

Griffin Shea, Louisiana, now Johannesburg

Anthony von Reichert, Georgia, now Pretoria

Nicole Wallace, Tennessee, now Cape Town

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