Belarusian spoke at the LGBT Immigration Forum in Washington, DC

01/03/2010
Submitted by Immigration Equality

Viachaslau (Slava) Bortnik, Belarusian LGBT activist and a member of a binational gay couple spoke along with Congressmen Jerry Nadler (D-NY-8) and Mike Honda (D-CA-15) at a Q Street luncheon on LGBT immigration on February 25 in Washington, DC. The event was moderated by Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality.

Q Street is an association of over 300 LGBT lobbyists and advocates for LGBT rights that hosts quarterly speakers’ luncheons and other events.

Slava, Belarusian LGBT activist who is a member of a binational couple, spoke movingly of his and his partner’s herculean efforts to be together despite discriminatory immigration laws in both the U.S. and his home country.

"It really does make a difference when binational families speak publicly. And doing so in front of not only Members of Congress, but also well-connected lobbyists in Washington, only makes the impact that much more prominent," said Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality.

Congressmen Nadler and Honda, who rushed to the event between votes on capitol hill, spoke movingly of the plight of binational gay and lesbian families and the legislation that they are lead sponsors of, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) respectively, which would end immigration discrimination against these families.

Rep. Nadler spoke of introducing the first iteration of UAFA ten years ago on Valentine’s Day of 2000, when he heard the plight of binational gay and lesbian partners who cannot stay together because immigration law does not allow them to. He said that he is against the “gratuitous cruelty” of current immigration law. Sometimes, he explained, governments are forced to do cruel things, but we should never have laws that are cruel for no purpose.

Rep. Honda spoke of the historic exclusion of specific groups from immigration benefits and said that we must end that kind of treatment of any group of people. He said that once his constituent Judy Rickard pointed out the unfairness of immigration law for LGBT families at a town hall event he hosted in San Jose, CA, he felt he had no choice but to include UAFA in his family immigration bill.

Reps. Nadler and Honda both urged attendees to reach out to members of Congress who have not yet cosponsored UAFA and RFA and to continue telling stories to educate their representatives. Honda also urged the LGBT community to stand behind immigration reform for all groups, citing the alliances Asian Americans have created with other groups including Latinos, Caribbean and Irish immigrants, and other groups to move immigration reform forward.

Both members of Congress expressed optimism that their efforts to ensure inclusion of LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform would be successful.

The event was hosted by the American Council of Life Insurers at their DC offices across the street from the U.S. Capitol grounds.

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