In the wake of the accusations made against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu of threatening his long time boyfriend, a Mexican immigrant, with deportation, online news site Slate published an article with the satirical headline, “Why your gay sheriff boyfriend can’t make you a U.S. citizen, even if you marry him.” The headline points to an interesting aspect of the Babeu situation that would most certainly be different if the sheriff’s affair had been with a woman. That is, with rumors swirling about the possible undocumented status of Babeu’s lover, one might expect the issue of eventual marriage and promised citizenship to play a part in the pair’s drama. However, as this is a gay relationship, even if “Jose” were to in fact be undocumented, his relationship with Babeu, no matter how serious, could never have impacted this status.
The Slate article, written by David Weigel, uses the current situation in Pinal County somewhat unexpectedly, to point out the confluence of the gay rights and immigrant rights movements. In particular, Weigel skewers the Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that the only way it truly promotes “traditional marriages” is by forcing gay immigrants into fraudulent green card relationships with members of the opposite sex. For him, immigration law and the Defense of Marriage Act operate concurrently to stifle the civil rights of lesbians and gays.
In reading Weigel’s piece, one question immediately emerges: why are the queer rights movement and the immigrant rights movement not working closer together? In fact, it turns out that many within both movements are asking themselves the same question, and are thus working to change this.
Undocumented queer activist Jorge Gutiérrez, profiled last week in The Huffington Post, is one of those seeking to illuminate the potential power inherent in an immigrant/queer activism alliance. One of Gutiérrez’ main goals as an immigrant activist is the passage of the DREAM Act, and he is quick to point out that many of those both fighting and eligible for inclusion in this act are in fact gay and lesbian. Unfortunately, he has found within the immigrant rights movement a reticence to be more inclusive of sexual diversity. Gutiérrez is actively seeking to change this, speaking out at immigrant rights rallies about the need for increased inclusiveness, and bringing his unique point of view to the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream, where he serves on the board of directors.
Too often, both queer individuals and Latino immigrants in this country are publicly met with the similar emasculating derision. By acknowledging the similar situations they share, Gutiérrez and others show that these two groups can together fight back against this intolerance and collaboratively promote a shared human rights agenda.