All citizens deserve equal rights, not just straight people

Joshua Vandiver, a Colorado native and an American citizen who married Henry Velandia from Venezuela, is now fighting to keep his husband from being deported.

Despite the fact that they were legally married in Connecticut, which recognizes same-sex marriages, Velandia does not have the right to apply for permanent resident status. That would only have been applicable if the couple was straight, according to ABC News.

Same-sex marriage can be performed in Connecticut, but it is not recognized by the federal government because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman under all federal laws, including immigration.

This law refuses to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples and denies them the 1,100 federal benefits and protections straight couples enjoy, according to the Human Rights Campaign website.

According to an analysis of 2008 census survey data by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles Law School, the U.S. is home to about 24,000 same-sex couples in which one partner is a U.S. citizen and the other is not. Thousands of these couples leave the U.S. every year to immigrate to countries where they are more welcome, according to the advocacy organization Immigration Equality.

It is a shame that despite the promises made to all citizens in the Constitution, discrimination and the denial of rights still exist.

Vandiver has every right to keep his spouse in this country, just as any straight couple would.

In the U.S., immigration laws are handled by the federal government. Therefore, the states’ recognition of same-sex marriages hold no weight.

Carry Tucker of California and Claire Pollard of the U.K. also fell victim to this oversight. The couple has been separated for five years despite California’s recognition of same-sex marriage because DOMA stands in their way, according to the ABC News website.

According to the Human Rights Campaign website, DOMA was passed in 1996 when same-sex individuals did not have the right to get married. Now that they have the opportunity to do so, they find themselves falling through the cracks of this law.

According to the Associated Press National Constitution Center, 52 percent of Americans support federal recognition of same-sex marriages. DOMA may be repealed by the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced in Congress in 2009, which provides all lawfully married couples, including same-sex couples, with the benefits promised to them by law.

Gay people are a much more prevalent part of society than they were in 1996. They need to be recognized and given the same rights as any other American citizen.

Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical science.