Archive for January, 2010

Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado

Posted on January 30, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Various Articles related on the journey of Shirley Tan (Philippines) and Jay Mercado (Philippines) as they face deportation from US

Lesbian couple inspires US immigration reform
MARCONI CALINDAS, GMANews.TV
05/06/2009 | 02:22 PM
SAN FRANCISCO, California — A Filipino couple’s fight to stay together is fueling a push to grant gay Americans the right to sponsor their foreign partners for permanent residence.

At the center of the campaign are Jay Mercado, an American woman, and her Filipino partner, Shirley Tan, who was recently saved from deportation after a California lawmaker sponsored a bill that put the case against her on hold. The couple has been busy gracing several media interviews in the Bay Area.

Tan, 43, was taken into custody in January for allegedly overstaying her 1985 tourist visa.

In an interview on Sunday night here, Tan said she filed for asylum in 1995. She feared that a cousin in the Philippines who had killed her mother and sister and critically wounded her when she was a teenager might try to hurt her again if she came home.

Tan didn’t know that her asylum request had been denied until federal agents came to take her away in handcuffs, she said.

She was scheduled for deportation on May 10, a prospect that would have separated her from Mercado, her partner of 23 years, and their 12-year-old twin boys.

But the case was blocked after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Democrat-CA) introduced an emergency measure allowing Tan to stay in the United States while Congress looks into her case.

Without the bill, Feinstein said, “this family will be separated, or they will be relocated to a third country where Ms. Tan’s safety and her children’s well-being may be at risk.”

““Right now we’re happy and pleased with the outcome because she (Tan) can stay with us; and we don’t have to be apart,” said Mercado, 48, who has been in domestic partnership with Tan since 1991 and married to her since 2004.

Mercado added that the ordeal has strengthened their faith in God, even though the Roman Catholic Church condemns their relationship.

The couple’s troubles are far from over, however. Feinstein’s bill only blocks Tan’s deportation through 2011.

Buoyed by strong support from gay rights activists, Mercado and Tan are shifting their focus to the push for passage of the Uniting American Families Act. The immigration measure would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for green cards.

“Now our main purpose is to get the UAFA passed because this will help a lot of people since there are over 36,000 bi-national couples (that are on the same boat as ours),” Mercado said.

Mercado said when they hadn’t realized there are many other lesbian and gay couples facing similar immigration challenges.

Tan spoke about the experience: “It’s very touching during those trying moments. We don’t know what to think but our main purpose was just for me to stay here. We are a very close knit family.”

She added, “There’s hope and there’s UAFA that we hope will eventually pass.” – GMANews.TV

Emergency Senate bill saves lesbian couple from deportation
By 365gay Newswire
04.23.2009 3:56pm EDT
(Washington) A bill introduced on the house floor yesterday by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is keeping Jay Mercado, her partner Shirley Tan and their twin 12-year-olds together – at least for now.

Mercado, an American woman and Tan, her Filipino partner, live in Pacifica, California with their 12-year-old twin sons, both American citizens. Tan had been ordered to appear for deportation on May 10, but the emergency bill will keep the family together at least through 2010.
Federal immigration law does not currently allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners.

Activists from around the country, including those from Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Immigration Equality and Love Exiles, learned about Tan and Mercado’s plight a month ago, and pleaded with elected officials for help. The story national prominence as a feature article in the April 20 edition of People Magazine.

“Those of us who have followed this case closely are overjoyed for this family. But this case highlights the need for Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) – legislation that has been languishing for 10 years – and would help the estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans in a loving and committed relationship with a foreign partner stay together in the U.S.,” said Amos Lim, co-founder of Out4Immigration.
The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), re-introduced in February 2009 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would add the words “or permanent partner” to existing immigration law wherever the word “spouse” appears. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits gay and lesbian Americans from accessing equal immigration rights, along with 1,137 other rights that come with a federally recognized marriage. The UAFA currently has 97 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate. Feinstein is not one of them.

Feinstein’s Emergecy Bill Saves Same-Sex Couple from Deportation

California Political Desk
April 24, 2009
San Francisco, CA — Because federal immigration law does not currently allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners, it took an emergency bill introduced on the Senate floor yesterday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to keep one same-sex binational couple and their family together in the United States.

Jay Mercado, an American woman and Shirley Tan, her Filipino partner, live in Pacifica, California with their 12-year-old twin sons, both American citizens. Shirley had been ordered to appear for deportation on May 10, but the emergency bill will keep this family together at least through 2010..

Their well-documented case was initially brought to the attention of Molly McKay, Media Director for Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), just over a month ago. Immediately, activists from around the country, including those from MEUSA, Out4Immigration, Immigration Equality and Love Exiles, took up the cause and pleaded with elected officials for help. In the month that followed, the story lit up the blogosphere, was written about in the San Jose Mercury News, and gained national prominence as a feature article in the April 20 edition of People Magazine.

“Those of us who have followed this case closely are overjoyed for this family. But this case highlights the need for Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) – legislation that has been languishing for 10 years – and would help the estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans in a loving and committed relationship with a foreign partner stay together in the U.S.,” said Amos Lim, co-founder of Out4Immigration.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, it took a village to help create what feels like nothing short of a miracle for this family. Senator Feinstein and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) have renewed our faith and hope that fair-minded Americans are finally stepping forward to help LGBT Americans enjoy the freedoms and protections extended to all other families” said McKay. “But Shirley and Jay are just one example of the thousands of families that face a similar peril. We thank Senator Feinstein for her extraordinary act and call on her to please co-sponsor the UAFA. Now is the time to move forward on equality. Please call and thank Senator Feinstein at (202) 224-3841 and urge her to help the thousands of families standing right behind Jay and Shirley.”

“This is a family who tried everything to stay together but still ended up nearly getting torn apart by our unfair and discriminatory federal laws that deny equality for LGBT Americans,” said Chris Waddling, Bi-National Couples Outreach Director for Marriage Equality USA. “Senator Feinstein has done a noble thing in submitting a private bill to save this family, but her next step must be to sign on as a co-sponsor of UAFA, so that this kind of extraordinary action is never again required”

“Each of us did one or two things that we could do. And for that moment, we gave up feeling powerlessness, stopped being resigned and cynical. We know we will wake up again tomorrow as second-class citizens in the eyes of US federal law. And all we can do is take one more step. It is the only way we will win. It’s up to us,” said Martha McDevitt-Pugh, founder of Love Exiles and a US citizen forced to leave the country to stay with her wife and live in the Netherlands.

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), re-introduced in February 2009 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would add the words “or permanent partner” to existing immigration law wherever the word “spouse” appears. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits gay and lesbian Americans from accessing equal immigration rights, along with 1,137 other rights that come with a federally recognized marriage. The UAFA currently has 97 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate. Ironically, Senator Feinstein is not one of them.

Updated: Filipino lesbian mother faces deportation from US
by News Editor
A 43-year old woman who faces likely deportation to the Philippines on Friday leaving behind her partner of 23 years and two twelve-year-old twin sons in Pacifica, California, has been allowed a two week reprieve from deportation.
Update (Apr 3, 2009):

The Advocate reports that Shirley Tan has been allowed a two week reprieve from deportation after California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were both fighting to keep Tan from being sent back to the Philippines, where she was previously subjected to horrific violence.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Tan first applied for political asylum in 1995 and thought her case was still pending, until immigration officials knocked on her door this past January. She said she was completely unaware a deportation order had been issued in 2002. Her bid for asylum failed because the threat to her life in the Philippines came from a relative – who shot her in the head when she was young over an inheritance battle – instead of from the government.

==============================================

A 43-year old woman faces likely deportation to the Philippines on Friday leaving behind her partner of 23 years and two twelve-year-old twin sons who were conceived invitro using her American partner’s eggs.
Shirley Tan and her partner Jay Mercado, a naturalised citizen born in the Philippine, were married in San Francisco in 2004 but their marriage was voided among the other 4,000 marriages performed by the city of San Francisco. The California’s Supreme Court ruled that Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority when he ordered city hall officials to begin issuing marriage licences to gay couples.

Even if it still were in effect, the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents Mercado from sponsoring her partner of 23 years for immigration. Were the pair a married opposite-sex couple, advocates say, Tan could be legal.

The couple are both the legal parents of their boys who are US citizens. Tan now wears an ankle bracelet assigned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who knocked on the front door at 6.30 am on Jan 28 this year, according to media reports.

Immigration Equality released a press statement on Mar 27 highlighting the US’ discriminatory immigration laws saying: “We hope the press will generate US government interest in staying the deportation, and understanding of the need for passage of the Uniting American Families Act to stop the destruction of our families.”

Immigration Equality press release:

CALIFORNIA � Immigration Equality today spoke out about a California family that may soon be torn apart. Due to immigration laws that discriminate against lesbian and gay couples, Shirley Tan will likely be deported April 3, separating her from her life partner Jay Mercado, their twelve-year-old twin sons, and Jay’s mother, for whom Shirley is the primary caretaker. The deportation will send Shirley back to the Philippines, where she was a victim of extreme violence.

“From the moment my sons were born we have never been apart. It’s tearing me apart to have to leave without them,” said Shirley.

Unlike married straight Americans, Jay cannot sponsor her life partner for immigration. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would remedy this discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans and allow them to sponsor their partners for immigration. The bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Senate and Rep. Jerrold Nadler in the House, has 107 additional cosponsors in the Senate and House.

Shirley and Jay are also seeking a private bill from their members of Congress for a stay of deportation, so that they can stay together in the US or have time to make plans to uproot their family and move together to another country.

“Once again a family is on the verge of being torn apart because U.S. immigration laws discriminate against gays and lesbians,” said Immigration Equality Policy Director Julie Kruse. “We hope the U.S. government takes immediate steps to keep Shirley and Jay and their children and parents together, and that Congress passes the Uniting American Families Act so the destruction of our families ends.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA-12) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who represent Shirley and Jay in Congress, have cosponsored the Uniting American Families Act.

“Shirley Tan’s unacceptable situation is just one example of why Congress must pass immigration equality legislation. The Uniting American Families Act, which I co-sponsored, will allow lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for residency in the United States,” said Rep. Jackie Speier. “In the near term, I am confident that any official who examines the facts in Shirley Tan’s case will come to the conclusion that this hard-working mother of two should not be sent to a country where she has no support network and was the victim of a horrific act of violence.”

Victoria Neilson, Immigration Equality’s Legal Director, stated, “There may be no options for this family under existing law. How can they explain to their children that the U.S. Government does not consider them a family?”

This week, the White House issued a statement about the Uniting American Families Act, saying “[President Obama] thinks Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.”

37 thousand couples across the nation face similar circumstances.

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Gay Nigerian Christian lay preacher Davis Mac-Iyalla

Posted on January 30, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

The gay Nigerian Christian lay preacher Davis Mac-Iyalla’s journey through immigration.
These are articles following his journey.
Source: http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/

Article #1:
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Davis Mac-Iyalla granted asylum
A Christian fleeing from Nigeria, where the Church supports anti-gay legislation, was granted asylum in the UK last Friday after receiving death threats.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Network (Nigeria), who left the country in 2006, said that he could now work in safety to further the welfare of other Nigerians who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual.

Mr Mac-Iyalla, who addressed a fringe meeting at the Lambeth Con¬ference on Tuesday, said that he could introduce bishops who denied that there were any gay Africans to several homosexuals from Africa. Homosexuality had existed in Africa long before Westerners arrived, he said. “Homosexuality was known in Africa: what was not known was Chris¬tianity. But the missionaries came and said it was a sin. It is not homosexuality that is a Western thing.”

The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng, had stated at the Conference that there were no gay people in Sudan, but, Mr Mac-Iyalla said, “there are African homo¬sexuals here at the Lambeth Con¬ference from Uganda, Ruanda, and Tan¬zania, and we are all the same. We are no different from the Suda¬nese. We are not a political organisation.”

In Nigeria, where being gay had been criminalised, it had become very difficult for homosexuals. “The Church should be protesting against the laws that criminalise homo¬sexual¬ity, and it should be offering churches as a safe place, instead of colluding with the government,” he said.

“Before Akinola became Arch¬bishop, I had a number of bishops who knew me well and related to me, but because of Akinola they have had to suppress their views. The Nigerian bishops dare not even come to Lambeth, although many wanted to, for fear of what would happen to them. The one who did try had to go back, otherwise he would have been excommunicated or defrocked.

“If that’s what would happen to a bishop, can you image what would happen to a gay person?”

He had seen no African bishops at the fringe meeting, “African Day of Action”, that he had addressed. “They are more keen to speak than to listen. African bishops are avoiding the truth.”

Two years ago he had been de¬nounced by the present Bishop of Ife in a press release, after he had said that he was gay and Anglican. “But we exist, and we are part of the Church and not strangers to the Church, contrary to what the African bishops are saying.

“I think God is helping us. No¬body would have thought then that gay Anglicans could come out and tell their stories.”

Source: Churchtimes

Article #2:
Saturday, 12 July 2008
An Evening with gay Nigerian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla
Davis was recently freed from UK detention.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, 35, is founder and director of the country’s only gay-rights organization, Changing Attitude-Nigeria, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Anglican Church and elsewhere in Nigeria.

This evening, from last year, was held at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland.

The Episcopal Church is the American wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes 80 million members in 154 countries. In 2003, the Episcopal Church consecrated the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola has been a leading critic against the ordination of gay bishops and the inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the church.

Mac-Iyalla is a leading voice fighting a proposed bill in his country that would make it illegal for gays to organize, meet in public, or even visit a GLBT website. He has received numerous death threats for his activism, has been fired from his job as a school principal, and forced to live in exile in a neighboring country in West Africa. Prior to declaring his homosexuality, he was an active member of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

In May 2007, he convened a meeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from seven West African countries, for the first regional conference of its kind. He toured 20 US cities, and he addressed the executive council of the Episcopal Church about the dangers faced by GLBT Nigerians.

Article #3:
Monday, 7 July 2008
Nigerian asylum seeker and activist freed
The gay Nigerian Christian lay preacher Davis Mac-Iyalla has been freed by the UK Home Office, Peter Tatchell reports.

Earlier this afternoon, London-based gay human rights group Outrage! reported that Mr. Mac-Iyalla, who is seeking refuge in UK had been arrested and incarcerated at the Oakington asylum detention centre in Cambridgeshire.

“The Home Office has just announced that [Mr.] Mac-Iyalla has been freed,W Mr. Tatchell said.

“After an intensive lobbying campaign for his release, the Home Office has relented and set free Mr Mac-Iyalla.

“I am delighted that the Home Office has finally seen sense and released him.

“But he was only freed because he has lots of supporters and a first-class solicitor, Abigale Evans of Wilson and Co.

“Many gay asylum seekers are not so lucky,” Mr. Tatchell pointed out.

“They end up in detention for months.

“Davis should never have been detained in the first place.

“Treating a victim of homophobic persecution like a common criminal is outrageous, said Mr Tatchell insisted.

Wikipedia Listing:
Davis Mac-Iyalla (b. 1974 in or near Otukpo) is a Nigerian LGBT rights activist. He established the Nigerian wing of the British Changing Attitude organization, which presses for internal reform of the Anglican Communion for further inclusion of Anglican sexual minorities.

He came out to himself at the age of 14, but his disinterest in dating females was not made apparent to others around him until after two events: the ordination of Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopalian branch, and the death of his mentor, the Bishop Iyobee Ugede of Otukpo. He was, in July of 2003, fired from his job as the principal of a local Anglican children’s school; after this incident, which he believed was due to his being gay, he became an activist and started work with Changing Attitude.

He has faced stiff opposition from both the religious elite and their lay constituents in Nigeria, which is a heavily-conservative nation in terms of politics. The church of Nigeria has issued a disclaimer against Mac-Iyalla on their website. However, Mac-Iyalla has met with the primate of the Nigerian Church, Peter Akinola, who is most well known for leading an internal faction of the worldwide communion against welcoming actions towards LGBT Anglicans by the British Anglican and U.S. Episcopalian churches.

Mac-Iyalla has ventured to other countries with Anglican communities on speaking tours.

He has been accused by Nigerian Anglicans as a charlatan who made up his life story, most notably by Canon Akintunde Popoola, but Mac-Iyalla posted photos of his time as a knight of the church during his younger years on the Web.
Source: Wikipedia

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Marco Aurelio and Doug Haxall

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Marco Aurelio (Brazilian) and Doug Haxall (US)

Binational Couple Make Their Relationship More Permanent
By Christopher Lisotta

http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=834

After months of anguish and uncertainty, one Los Angeles-area same-sex couple finds their relationship has taken on the stamp of legal permanence. Marco Aurelio, a Brazilian citizen, recently found out he was granted political asylum in the United States due to his sexual orientation. Although the move was welcome news to Aurelio, it meant just as much to his partner, Doug Haxall, who no longer had to worry about his boyfriend being deported.

“It’s completely changed everything,” Haxall said of Aurelio’s new status. “We were fighting this struggle for a long time. You have this sense of impermanence in the relationship. It was a financial hardship. We couldn’t make plans for the long term, really.”
Although Haxall and Aurelio’s story has a happy ending, the details of their relationship show how difficult it is for binational same-sex couples to go about making their relationships stable, and how legal anomalies and loopholes mean the difference between being together and facing a life apart.

When Haxall and Aurelio first met at the 1998 West Hollywood Halloween festival, they knew there was an attraction, despite a significant language barrier. But they were determined to make their relationship work, even if it meant in the beginning they had to struggle to communicate. The pair soon found out English was the least of their problems, as Aurelio tried to take steps to get the legal protections needed for a noncitizen to stay in the country.
Aurelio came to the U.S. on a tourist visa, but knew after meeting Haxall he wanted to stay with the man who had quickly become a part of his life. The two decided to move in together, and Aurelio made the snap decision to apply for a student visa, which meant the two men decided to make their relationship more permanent despite the struggles to communicate.

Luckily, Haxall could help Aurelio financially with English-language classes and cosmetology schooling, which are expensive for international students. Still, there was a level of stress involved, because Aurelio continued to face deportation if he left school. It was then that Aurelio applied for permanent status based on his sexuality.

“You have to fill out a lot of paperwork,” Haxall said. Aurelio then had to meet with an immigration agent, who studied the details of his case. Despite all the roadblocks, Aurelio’s life was made easier by the change in his legal status.

“If you’re illegal, it is a much more dangerous process,” Haxall said. “You go before a judge and he can deport you.”
Ally Bolour, who represented Aurelio in his petition for asylum, said getting permanent status is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis. “If you can show there was past persecution or credible fear of future persecution,” Bolour explained, “then you can get it.”
Citizens from countries like Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma) and Indonesia all have an easier time proving their governments have active policies that discriminate against gays and lesbians, but petitioners from places like the U.K. or the Netherlands are unlikely to be successful.
“If the person is from Western Europe, they won’t get asylum,” Bolour said. He also noted that Mexican petitioners face new hurdles since their country’s laws have been changed to be more inclusive. “Mexico cases aren’t good anymore because Mexico doesn’t persecute as much.”

With its famed Mardi Gras celebrations and Rio’s reputation for wild gay fun, Brazil seems an unlikely candidate for a country that persecutes gays and lesbians, but Bolour pointed out that the experience of American and European tourists on vacation is not the same as the experience for the average gay or lesbian Brazilian.
“If you’re Brazilian and you’re gay, there is a lot of societal discrimination that applies,” he said.

The ability to get asylum based on sexual orientation is relatively new. As late as 1991, gays and lesbians were excludable based on medical grounds, which classified gay people as inferior or having a mental defect. A 1990 law dropped the exclusion of gays looking to emigrate, but depending on the local Immigration and Naturalization Service offices, sympathy for same-sex asylum cases varied. In 1994, then-Attorney General Janet Reno issued stronger regulations, giving all courts and immigration offices universal standards for the treatment of gay and lesbian asylum seekers, making life much easier for people like Aurelio. Haxall pointed out that same-sex couples still have far more obstacles facing them than straight couples, who can easily sponsor their spouse and are more likely to get a decision that goes their way.

Haxall and other binational gay and lesbian couples are trying to change that. Despite significant challenges from conservatives and scared progressives who don’t want to vote for anything that even looks pro-gay, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which would grant permanent residency status to same-sex partners of American citizens, has over 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, as well as the support of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“We’re kind of ahead of schedule,” Haxall said, noting that both Democratic and Republican members of the House have signed up to sponsor the bill, which was first introduced in the last session of Congress by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. “We are trying to get it in the Senate this year.”

At least for Haxall and Aurelio, life has gotten much easier since their relationship is no longer a legal question mark.

“The sense of fear is kind of gone,” Haxall said. “We couldn’t grow that much as individuals. Now that’s all lifted.”
–John Caldwell contributed to this article

This story is located at:
http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=834

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Ryan and Partner

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Ryan (U.S.) & Partner (Thailand)

http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=1129

I met my partner in 2000 and we immediately fell in love. Since he was unable to come to America, I moved to Thailand and began working shortly after moving there. I left my promising academic career, my dear friends, and my family because I had no choice. We tried building a life there, but I had few work options and my income was so limited.

We tried to start anew in America with him getting a student visa. He studied hard to pass the TOEFL and got all the proper sponsorship paperwork, but in the end, the U.S. embassy in Bangkok denied him.
A simple refusal on their part, a life-changing event for us.
So, after spending months apart (I in the USA, he in Thailand), I flew back to be with him. I resigned myself to staying in Thailand and working around my visa status, which was not easy to manage. After teaching English for two more years, I got completely burned out. I never really wanted to teach, but it was the only way for me to earn a livable wage and stay with my partner.

Also, being so far from everyone else in my family was a big burden and so I finally left Thailand.

My partner and I split ways and are no longer a couple, but we never really got a full chance like straight couples have.

The biggest hypocrisy was that the U.S. claims NOT to recognize same-sex couples.

However, when a same-sex partner presents him/herself as such to the Embassy, they are specifically denied for that very reason!
So, they deny us on the grounds that we are a couple,
yet they can’t recognize us officially as such! What a scam!

This story is located at:
http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=1129

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Pegah Emambakhsh – Iranian gets refugee status in UK

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

The following is a series of articles that follow the journey of Pegah Emambakhsh as she gained refugee status in the UK.
This story is located at:
http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Pegah Emambakhsh wins!
Just received a message that finally, after far, far too long, Iranian lesbian Pegah Emambakhsh has refugee status in the UK.

No more detail yet but this is amazing news.

UPDATE:
“I could not believe it. I did not read any papers so far” Pegah said in a telephone conversation with IRQR today at 11:00 PM London time zone. She continued “Few hours ago I received a phone call from my lawyer that I granted refugee status. I will meet my lawyer tomorrow and I have to read that paper several time to make sure I am free from now. I hope all of people can achieve their dreams” This has been a long struggle but is a real vindication of what can be achieved when we all work together.

UPDATE: From article in The Independent:
Asylum rights groups have been pressing the British Government to introduce a moratorium on returning gay and lesbian refugees to Iran, where homosexuality is still considered a crime. But the Home Office made clear last night that it was not prepared to grant a blanket exemption in such cases. A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: “We consider each case on its individual merits and, whenever someone needs our protection, we grant it. We constantly monitor the human rights situation in countries like Iran and press for an end to abuses, but we do not believe that everyone claiming to be a homosexual from Iran is in need of international protection.”
Posted by Paul Canning at 2/11/2009

Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Letter from Caroline Lucas supporting Pegah Emambakhsh
NB: this letter from Caroline is from last year – latest on Pegah – but it’s a good example of how these sorts of letters are written.
Dear Minister,
Re: Pegah Emambakhsh – H.O ref: B1191057
Pegah Emambakhsh is an Iranian woman who is being held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. If deported to Iran, Pegah faces imprisonment and execution by stoning, due to her sexual orientation.
Pegah escaped from Iran and sought asylum in the UK in 2005, after her partner was arrested, tortured and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning. Her father was also arrested, interrogated and tortured for information about her whereabouts.

The UK Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) rejected Pegah’s claim for asylum and her appeal against the decision has failed. Pegah was arrested and taken to Yarls Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire, where, as far as I am aware, she is still being held. However, Pegah has recently received the offer of asylum in Italy.
It was a grave miscarriage of justice and contravention of human rights that her appeal for asylum was rejected by the UK in 2005. Despite her traumatic past experiences, Pegah has been an active and respected member of the community in Sheffield, volunteering for a refugee-support organisation.

After her plight received wide media coverage in Italy, Pegah’s case has now been taken up by the Italian government, and she has been offered asylum in the city of Venice. The Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, has stated that the city “places a secure living facility at the woman’s disposal”.

I, therefore, strongly urge you to ensure that Pegah is not deported to Iran where there is little doubt she would persecuted in an extreme manner, and possibly stoned to death. Pegah is at even greater risk of persecution now that she has received visible media attention. I would strongly urge you to ensure that, if the UK is unwilling to review its position, Pegah is permitted to go to Italy, where she can live in safety and be reunited with her children.

Yours sincerely,
Caroline Lucas – Green Party MEP for South East England.
Posted by gayasylumuk at 5/07/2008

Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Iran lesbian’s appeal ordeal

An Iranian lesbian who faces imprisonment and even death if she returns to her home country because of her sexuality is still in limbo waiting for a fresh appeal for asylum to be heard.

Pegah Emambakhsh first sought asylum in Sheffield in 2005, after escaping from Iran where it is claimed her lover had been arrested, tortured and sentenced to death by stoning.

But last year her application and subsequent appeal were refused, and in August she was taken to Yarlswood detention centre ready for deportation.

Campaigners in Sheffield stepped in and she was saved from being sent back, bailed, and allowed to return to the city.

In the last two weeks Pegah has received a letter from the Home Office confirming it will look at her case again, but nearly nine months on does not know when a decision will be made.

Campaigner Margaret Spooner said: “This is one of the hardest parts – the fact it goes on and on and she has no idea when something will happen.”
Posted by Paul Canning at 4/30/2008

Now Iranian lesbian who fled to Britain faces deportation
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
This story is located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/now-iranian-lesbian-who-fled-to-britain-faces-deportation-792819.html
Friday, 7 March 2008
Prof.Dr. Abdurrahim Vural
President of IRG was acquitted bythe European Court of Human Rights!
IslamischeReligionsGemeinschaft.org

An Iranian lesbian who fled to Britain after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death faces being forcibly returned after losing the latest round in her battle to be granted asylum.

The case of Pegah Emambakhsh, 40, comes a day after The Independent reported on the growing public outcry over the plight of a gay Iranian teenager who fears he will be executed if he is deported to Iran.

Both cases have provoked international protests against Britain and led to calls for an immediate moratorium on the deportation of gay and lesbian asylum-seekers who fear they will be persecuted in Iran.

More than 60 MEPs have signed a petition asking Gordon Brown to reverse the decision on Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who escaped to the Netherlands after the Home Office refused him asylum last year. His case is still before Dutch judges who will decide this month whether he should return to Britain where he faces deportation to a country which has already executed his boyfriend.

Gay rights group claim there are dozens more cases of gay and lesbian asylum-seekers living in Britain in fear of persecution and facing harsh punishments if forced to return to Iran.

Ms Emambakhsh came to the UK in 2005 fearing for her life after her partner had been arrested by Tehran police. Iranian gay rights groups have reported that that partner is in custody under sentence of death by stoning. Speaking through her asylum representative in Sheffield yesterday, Ms Emambakhsh said: “I will never, never go back. If I do I know I will die.”

Under the Iranian Islamic Punishment Act, lesbians found guilty of sexual relations can be sentenced to 100 lashes. But, for a third offence, the punishment is execution.
Ms Emambakhsh narrowly avoided deportation in August last year but only after her local MP, Richard Caborn, and other parliamentarians persuaded the Government to allow her to stay while further legal avenues of appeal were explored. She says she was already on the way to Heathrow when she learnt of her last-minute reprieve. But last month the Court of Appeal turned down her application for permission for a full hearing. Ms Emambakhsh said yesterday that she was “very disappointed” by the ruling but planned to apply for a judicialreview at the High Court. The Home Office has also agreed to consider fresh legal representations on her behalf.

The Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford has written to the Home Secretary to request her urgently to review the case of Mehdi Kazemi. Lady Ludford, the party’s European justice spokesperson and a member of the European Parliament’s Gay and Lesbian Rights Intergroup, said: “Jacqui Smith must recognise and act on the real threat of persecution and even execution which Mr Kazemi would face if he was to be deported to Iran.”
Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London to study English in 2004 but later discovered that his boyfriend had been arrested by the Iranian police, charged with sodomy and hanged.

In a phone conversation with his father in Tehran, Mr Kazemi was told that, before the execution in April 2006, his boyfriend had been questioned about sexual relations he had with other men and under interrogation had named Mr Kazemi. Fearing for his own life if he returned to Iran, Mr Kazemi claimed asylum in Britain. Late last year, his claim was refused. Terror-stricken at the prospect of being deported, he made a desperate attempt to evade deportation by fleeing to the Netherlands where he is being detained amid a growing outcry from campaigners.
In turning down Ms Emambakhsh and Mr Kazemi’s asylum applications, the Home Office has said that, provided Iranians are discreet about their homosexuality, they will not be persecuted. But Omar Kuddus, of Gay Asylum UK, demanded that Britain follow the example of the Netherlands and Germany in imposing a moratorium on all deportations involving gay and lesbian Iranians. He asked: “How many more young Iranians have to die before the British Government takes action?”

The chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency, Lin Homer, said: “Our country guidance for such cases is published and is considered as amongst the best in the world. We have expert case workers who make decisions on such cases and there are further avenues through the courts. When and if a court decides that we should look at a case again we will do that.”

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Priscilla and Elizabrth

Posted on January 22, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Priscilla (U.S.) & Elizabeth (United Kingdom)

My name is Priscilla. I am an attorney with the Office of the Los Angeles County Counsel. My partner lives in England.

I met Elizabeth through the internet in June 1997. In October 1997, she visited me for the first time. We surely did fall in love with one another in the two weeks of the visit. Having to say good-bye to her at the airport was and still is the MOST TRAUMATIC thing I will ever do.

In 1998, Elizabeth decided to come be with me in the U.S. on a tourist visa. During her six-month stay, she decided she wanted to start school and get a bachelor’s degree. She applied at a local college and was accepted there. She was advised by the foreign students department of the college that she should return to England and adjust her status there by getting a student visa. Elizabeth chose to follow this advice.

She applied at the U.S. Embassy in London on her return to England on December 23, 1998. The U.S. Embassy denied her application because they felt she had not demonstrated sufficient ties to the U.K.

Later, I asked my congressman to inquire at the Embassy. In the letter they wrote to the congressman the Embassy stated that Elizabeth applied for her visa after being only 2 weeks back in England. That fact apparently weighed against her, despite the fact that she had been advised to do so by the foreign students office at her college, and despite the fact that the winter term was due to begin January 20, 1999.

The Embassy then stated in the letter that Elizabeth had been denied a visa twice, first in December on her first application, then in January 1999 when she attempted to supplement her initial application.

I still get very angry when I think how the Embassy mischaracterized the whole process in an attempt to make her look and feel like a criminal. Elizabeth still lives in England. We see each other whenever we can afford to do so. Separating is enormously painful. But I cannot and will not live my life without her.

I am so angry that as a so-called American citizen the most basic rights that others take for granted, that is, having your partner with you, is not available to me in this country.

I pay over $20,000 in federal taxes each year, yet I am not allowed to enjoy one of the most fundamental experiences in life.

 This story is located at: http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=1149

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Randy and Partner

Posted on January 8, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Randy (U.S.) & Partner (Australia) 

http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?s=immeqla&cid=1147

I am a U.S. Citizen, a Vietnam Veteran, a home owner, a Tax payer and a member in good standing in my community. I have served my country, paid my taxes, my family goes all the way back to the settlement at Jamestown Virginia, and yet I am not afforded the same rights as my neighbors because I am a man in love with another man.

Four years ago I met a young man from Australia. He was here on a Visitor’s Visa, he had run into some bad luck, he had been robbed, lied to, and had been beat down by the system. He needed a place to stay and I took him in to help him get back on his feet. We have been together ever since.

The only way I could keep him in this country legally was to enroll him in school. When I met my Aussie I was not in debt, now I owe $40,000 dollars! Because of his visa status he is not allowed to work and his tuition is elevated because he is an International Student.

Due to current immigration laws, I cannot sponsor him for a resident alien card, because as far as the U.S. Government is concerned we are total strangers.

I am an Electronics Field Technician, working for a company that services airport security equipment under a Government contract. I am finding it harder and harder to justify staying in this country under the current conditions. If we moved to Australia my partner could sponsor me. If we moved to Canada we could marry. If we stay in the U.S. I see no future for us.

Every day more and more people in our situation are leaving the U.S. The U.S. is losing talented people due to inequality of immigration laws. This is not an immigration issue, this is a civil rights issue.

If heterosexual Joe Blow down the street can walk across the border, marry a woman he has known for five minutes, bring her home and sponsor her for a Green Card, why shouldn’t I be allowed to sponsor someone I have spent the past four years building a life with, some­one that I am in love with, someone who brings me joy and peace, someone who has made me a better person?!

We are not asking for special rights. We are asking for equal rights.

This story can be found at Out 4 Immigration:
http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?s=immeqla&cid=1147

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Gay Rights – The History Of A Social Movement In America

Posted on January 8, 2010. Filed under: Resources |

A high level view

Milestones in the Gay Rights Movement in America

Source: Excerpted from The Reader’s Companion to American History.
Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Late in the [19th] century, as large cities allowed for greater anonymity, as wage labor apart from family became common, and as more women were drawn out of the home, evidence of a new pattern of homosexual expression surfaced. . . .

At first, these individuals developed ways of meeting one another and institutions to foster a sense of identity. . . . By 1915, one participant in this new gay world was referring to it as “a community distinctly organized.” For the most part hidden from view because of social hostility, an urban gay subculture had come into existence by the 1920s and 1930s.

1924 – The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the country’s earliest known gay rights organization.
1948 – – Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, revealing to the public that homosexuality is far more widespread than was commonly believed.

This new visibility provoked latent cultural prejudices….Firings from government jobs and purges from the military intensified in the 1950s. President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an executive order in 1953 barring gay men and lesbians from all federal jobs. Many state and local governments and private corporations followed suit. The FBI began a surveillance program against homosexuals.

1951 – The Mattachine Society, the first national gay rights organization, is formed by Harry Hay, considered by many to be the founder of the gay rights movement.

1956 – The Daughters of Bilitis, a pioneering national lesbian organization, is founded.

In the 1960s, influenced by the model of a militant black civil rights movement, the “homophile movement,” as the participants dubbed it, became more visible. Activists, such as Franklin Kameny and Barbara Gittings, picketed government agencies in Washington to protest discriminatory employment policies. In San Francisco, Martin, Lyon, and others targeted police harassment. By 1969, perhaps fifty homophile organizations existed in the United States, with memberships of a few thousand.

1962 – Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.

1969 – The Stonewall riots transform the gay rights movement from one limited to a small number of activists into a widespread protest for equal rights and acceptance. Patrons of a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, fight back during a police raid on June 27, sparking three days of riots.

….[In 1975] the Civil Service Commission eliminated the ban on the employment of homosexuals in most federal jobs. Many of the nation’s religious denominations engaged in spirited debates about the morality of homosexuality, and some, like Unitarianism and Reformed Judaism, opened their doors to gay and lesbian ministers and rabbis. The lesbian and gay world was no longer an underground subculture but, in larger cities especially, a well-organized community, with businesses, political clubs, social service agencies, community centers, and religious congregations bringing people together. In a number of places, openly gay candidates ran for elective office and won.

1973 – The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.

1977 – Harvey Milk was elected to public office.

1978 – Harvey Milk was assassinated while serving in office.

The onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, although it intensified the antigay rhetoric of the New Right, also stimulated further organizing within the gay community. AIDS made political mobilization a matter of life and death. With a large majority of the cases striking male homosexuals, the gay community in short order created a host of organizations, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, to provide services and assistance to those infected. Local and national gay civil rights groups also grew in size and number, as the community sought to increase funding for research and education and to win protection against discrimination. A personal and social tragedy of immense proportions, AIDS paradoxically strengthened the political arm of the gay movement.

1982 – Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

1993 – The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is instituted for the U.S. military, permitting gays to serve in the military but banning homosexual activity. President Clinton’s original intention to revoke the prohibition against gays in the military was met with stiff opposition; this compromise, which has led to the discharge of thousands of men and women in the armed forces, was the result.

1996 – In Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court strikes down Colorado’s Amendment 2, which denied gays and lesbians protections against discrimination, calling them “special rights.” According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, “We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These protections . . . constitute ordinary civil life in a free society.”

2000 – Vermont becomes the first state in the country to legally recognize civil unionsbetween gay or lesbian couples. The law states that these “couples would be entitled to the same benefits, privileges, and responsibilities as spouses.” It stops short of referring to same-sex unions as marriage, which the state defines as heterosexual.

2003 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”

2003 – In November, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that barring gays and lesbians from marrying violates the state constitution. The Massachusetts Chief Justice concluded that to “deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage” to gay couples was unconstitutional because it denied “the dignity and equality of all individuals” and made them “second-class citizens.” Strong opposition followed the ruling.

2004 – On May 17, same-sex marriages become legal in Massachusetts.

2005 – Civil unions become legal in Connecticut in Oct. 2005.

2006 – Civil unions become legal in New Jersey in December.

2007 – In November, the House of Representatives approves a bill ensuring equal rights in the workplace for gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

2008 – In February, a New York State appeals court unanimously votes that valid same-sex marriages performed in other states must be recognized by employers in New York, granting same-sex couples the same rights as other couples.

2008 – In February, the state of Oregon passes a law that allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners allowing them some spousal rights of married couples.

2008 – On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. By November 3rd, more than 18,000 same-sex couples have married. On November 4th, California voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage called Proposition 8. The attorney general of California, Jerry Brown, asked the state’s Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The ban throws into question the validity of the more than 18,000 marriages already performed, but Attorney General Brown reiterated in a news release that he believed the same-sex marriages performed in CA before November 4th should remain valid.

2008 – On October 10, 2008 the Supreme Court of Connecticut rules that same-sex couples have the right to marry. This makes Connecticut the second state, after Massachusetts, to legalize civil marriage for same-sex couples. The court rules that the state cannot deny gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry under Connecticut’s constitution, and that the state’s civil union law does not provide same-sex couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples.

2008 – November 4, 2008, voters in California, Arizona, and Florida approved the passage of measures that ban same-sex marriage. Arkansas passed a measure intended to bar gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

2008 – On November 12, 2008 same-sex marriages begin to be officially performed in Connecticut.

2009 – On June 3, New Hampshire governor John Lynch signs legislation allowing same-sex marriage

2009 – On June 17, President Obama signs a referendum allowing the same-sex partners of federal employees to receive benefits

A few additional facts:

from www.hrc.org

LGBT Americans wield more than $700 billion in buying power and

are more likely than straight folks to spend money with companies that support

them (makes sense, no?).  But combing through a company’s discrimination

policy is no one’s idea of a fun pre-shopping activity.  Enter: the Human Rights

Campaign (HRC).

  The HRC keeps tabs on how well corporate America treats its LGBT employees, consumers, and investors.  This week it synthesized data on 590 companies into an easy-to-use Buying for Equality guide, scoring companies on a scale of 0 to 100 and awarding them a rating of green (shop away!), yellow, or red.  The scores are based on such criteria as whether the company provides domestic-partner benefits, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or identification, hosts diversity training, and supports LGBT causes.  And the HRC

is rolling out an iPhone app early next month, so shoppers can decide whether to swing into Gap (100) or Anne Klein (45) while on the go.

  Most of the HRC’s scores are heartening and pretty unsurprising: 100’s all around for Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Nike.  But it’s the stinkers in the list that caught my eye: Cracker Barrel scored the worst of the bunch, with a paltry 15 (hashbrown casserole be damned, that number’s low enough to knock them off my next road-trip itinerary).  Wal-Mart and Radioshack both scored a 40, John Deere earned a 33, and Office Depot and Humana came in at 45.

  Of course, a low score doesn’t mean that a company is actively hostile to its

LGBT workforce, whether that means only promoting straight people or encouraging homophobic remarks around the watercooler.  But it does reflect a certain passivity or apathy to equality.  When I spoke with Corliss Fong, VP of diversity strategies at Macy’s, about her company’s recent decision to officially ban discrimination against transgendered employees, she asked, “If this is what we, as a company, are already doing in practice, what argument is there to not put it in writing?” That proactive mentality earned the retailer a Perfect 100–which may snag them more shoppers this holiday season.

Copyright 2009

Mansueto Ventures LLC.  All rights reserved.  Fast Company, 7 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007-2195

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Sid and Sergei

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Sid (U.S.)  &  Sergei (Russia)
from Out 4 Immigration

Sergei and I met on the internet looking for friends who were gay and would like to know gay friends in other countries. We have met several times in various European countries. We have fallen in love and everything that is normal as we were both taught says we can not be in love, that we have no capability to consummate a partnership of love and permanence. Our languages are totally different, our countries of residence are totally against us as gay men. Yet, we want to live together, for as long as possible, and to share our lives every day. Neither of us has any interest in our lives in our native country and all we can think about is how we can find a place and be together. We both have become dull to our old friends and yet neither of us has anyone with whom we can talk about this in our circle of old friends or family. We think and plan from visit to visit and always look to being together permanently. I have been in love, I have been married, I have experienced just about every kind of relationship but NEVER have I had such a feeling of total commitment in my entire life. Sergei is steadfast in his love and wants to be with me as much as I want to be with him. I can not explain it, we can not find words to express how deeply we feel for each other even as society says we can not possibly truly feel the way we do. Our relationship is permanent. Even if it means surrender of our own nationality and adoption of another country.

Thanks to Out 4 Immigration for posting this story: http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?&mimid=RHGK1QK11SL49M14N1NA5VAT65MNBGM2&cid=1148

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Gay Muslim scholar (Junaid Bin Jahangir) shunned by own community

Posted on January 5, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites |

Junaid Bin Jahangir was such a devout Muslim that when he arrived in Canada he ate only yogurt for two days until he was sure which food followed halal dietary rules.

The university student prayed five times a day, and joined a local mosque.

Then one day, at age 27, he started to wonder why he had never been with a girl. “Why don’t I like women that way?” he asked, and it led him to a counselling office, where he sat, sobbing, with the realization that he was gay — a pariah to his community.

Mainstream Islamic leaders say gay men should be shunned and some around the world are killed each year.

Mr. Jahangir’s world imploded; work on his PhD ground to a halt.

But out of that despair, Mr. Jahangir began to work on another project: Understanding the teachings of Islam on homosexuality. From his office at the University of Alberta, he contacted experts, read everything he could on the subject and studied the scriptures intensely for two years, rebuilding his own identity in the process. His work is starting to be recognized internationally.

Now he argues Muslims misinterpret the Qur’an if they consider the ban on homosexuality to be as firm as bans on alcohol or pork. The common story from which most Muslims draw their teaching is about violent homosexual rape, he says, and it’s time to rethink the possibility of consensual, supportive relationships.

Although his PhD in economics is still incomplete, Mr. Jahangir was asked to contribute a chapter to a new anthology on homosexuality compiled by a noted Australian academic. The book, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers, appeared recently in bookstores.

But he remains fearful of talking about the subject. He doesn’t want his face shown in photographs, and when he agreed to do a presentation at the University of Alberta in the run-up to the book launch, organizers asked campus security and a local newspaper to attend in case someone wanted to cause trouble.

The meeting went well, and it appeared that some Muslim students attended, judging by the half-dozen head scarves among the crowd. But he still complains no Imams or professors with the university Islamic Studies department will speak with him or about the topic. The silence is so deep it’s frustrating, he says.

“The apathy is unbelievable. How many more marriages do we want to fail as we pretend this doesn’t exist?

“Gay youth are committing suicide,” he says. “The 13- or 14-year-old girls, they are the ones who need this. [If they believe they are lesbian], what do they do? Get married and follow through the motions? What joy do they have in their lives?

“Let’s at least talk about the issue because it affects us all.”

Mr. Jahangir wrote his views in an opinion piece published in the Gateway, the University of Alberta student newspaper. But the local Muslim student association simply sent an e-mail to its members recommending they avoid him. Now he avoids the Muslim community, and any local mosque, too, he says. “I’m a pariah.”

Mr. Jahangir grew up in Dubai and studied to earn a bachelor’s degree in Pakistan. He came to the university in Edmonton for his master’s and PhD.

He was goal-oriented, and totally focused on his studies until about four years ago, when he finished the field exams for his commerce degree.

He still had a thesis to write, but that’s when he first seriously asked himself the question: “Why don’t I like women that way?”

“Does this mean I’m gay?” he asked the student counsellor.

“‘That’s for you to decide,’” the counsellor answered. Mr. Jahangir broke down crying.

From then on, he couldn’t focus on his thesis.

He went to see a local Imam and told him his fears. “‘You’re effeminate,’ ” the Imam told him. “‘I want you to go to the gym and keep a diary.’”

Mr. Jahangir discarded the advice. “I said this is no solution.”

He sought help from an Islamic counsellor on the Internet. “All she said was, ‘You seem like a good person. I’ll pray for you.’ ”

He went to a doctor to get hormonal tests, but they came back normal.

Finally, he went to a professional local counsellor, who turned out to be Jewish, and she taught him that holy scriptures have been interpreted by people differently over the years. The common interpretation is not always the truest, he says. He kept visiting her regularly for five months.

“They are as conservative as we are,” he says. “I really learned a lot from her. That boosted my confidence to study on my own.”

It has now been four years since he first took on the motto — “knowledge is your shield” — and started searching for books and articles on the subject. He’s still working on his economics degree, but being included in the anthology for his work on homosexuality feels like having published a second thesis.

In the book, Mr. Jahangir examines the story of Lut, or Lot, a nephew of Ibrahim (or Abraham), who is often remembered from Christian Sunday school lessons as the man whose wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah burning in fire and brimstone.

In the Qur’an, Lut was a prophet sent to warn the people of the city to turn away from evil practices. Angels in the form of young male travellers came to warn him to flee because the city was about to be destroyed.

Lut persuaded the strangers to stay at his house for protection and, during the night, the men of the city threaten to break into his house demanding the strangers be given to them for sex.

Lut and his family fled during the night.

Mainstream Islamic thought interprets the sin of Lut’s people primarily as homosexuality.

But Mr. Jahangir argues the sin discussed here should be recognized as rape, not loving same-sex unions. “This is rape as a violent tool. That’s how you humiliate your enemies,” Mr. Jahangir says.

Most major sins in the Qur’an are spelled out, says Mr. Jahangir, such as the prohibition against incest, “forbidden to you are your mothers and daughters, your sisters.”

But why draw such a firm prohibition against homosexuality from a story, he asks. “A story can be interpreted in so many different ways. Why does it have to be this?”

“Even sympathetic people will say it’s a test for you from God,” he says. “Where does that leave you? You can’t expect them to be robots. If it is a test, the majority will fail.”

Instead, Mr. Jahangir argues, Muslims should apply the principle from the Qur’an that states anything not expressly forbidden is permissible.

Marriage is a basic need for a healthy life and Islamic law is mindful of genuine private and public need, he says. Since science has demonstrated homosexuality is not a choice, he argues, Islamic principles should support loving same-sex unions.

“It’s not about sex. It’s about being alone in old age,” he says. “It’s about living the full civil life of responsibility.”

The community has ostracized Mr. Jahangir because of his views, he says. But he’s not worried for himself anymore; he has the support of his family back in Pakistan.

He spends his time teaching and in advocacy work, and has a new circle of supportive friends.

Loneliness comes when he sees couples walking together and friends with children. “But I have an amazing group of close friends here. [Being alone] doesn’t bother me that much,” he says. “This is where my adopted family is.”

Mr. Jahangir says he knows girls who have run away from homes in Edmonton rather than get married and who are still hiding from their parents. A young male relative was suicidal, but seems to have found a measure of peace through reading his work, he says.

Mainstream Canadian culture is much more supportive of homosexual youth than it once was, he says. “It’s really the task of the day to work in the Islamic context as well. These books, hopefully, will ignite the conversation.”

This article was first posted at:
http://www.nationalpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=2401755

Posting here with the permission of Junaid Bin Jahangir.

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