Heterosexual marriage is the known and recognized societal norm. Acceptance of a norm becomes easy when it is reflective of a more general and common occurrence among members of a community. For centuries, marriage has been traditionally defined as a union between a man and a woman, the “divine purpose “of which is procreation for the perpetuation and preservation of the human race. To preserve civil society, a family should be in a legal societal structure of marriage.
Societal taboos or trends can take a century or more to evolve and become acceptable or just fade away. The struggle for women’s suffrage started in the 1820s and ended on Aug. 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution crystallized the women’s right to vote. Slavery was legal in the United States until President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The gay rights movement believed to have started in 1924 with the founding of the Society for Human Rights by Henry Gerber in Chicago has gone through a lot of struggles. In those days, it was labeled as a mental illness; homosexuals were banned from employment in the Federal government, politics and the military; gays and lesbians were not allowed to marry and were deprived of benefits that heterosexual couples enjoyed.
Fortunately, societal transformation occurs and the reality of what is occurring in its midst cannot be ignored. The gay rights movement that fiercely advocated for the recognition of same-sex marriage, gained credence and recognition.
Today, 20 states and Washington D.C. as well as the US Federal government recognize the validity of same-sex marriage. In the landmark case of United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013), the US Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) strictly defining marriage as a union between a male and female, unconstitutional.
The Windsor ruling also radically changed US immigration rules, and for the first time in the history of US immigration, marriage between same-sex couples is legal.
So if you are in search of a green card, a same-sex relationship can be your pathway (that immigration buzzword). But not so fast, the immigration benefit will attach only if the marriage is celebrated in a state that allows it. And it is a little more complicated for long distance trans-continental love affairs. Hurdle 1: When the country of origin of the alien partner does not recognize same sex marriages. Unlike heterosexual couples who usually have two options to come to the United States, i.e., as a spouse or a fiancé/e, same-sex couples cannot marry in their country of origin and process an immigrant visa for the alien spouse, unless that country recognizes same-sex marriage. A fiancé/e visa is the only way to bring the alien partner to the US. Hurdle 2: Fiance/e visas can be availed of only by U.S. citizens. Green card holders or other non-immigrant visa holders such as H1B (work visas), F1 (student visas), cannot bring their partners and be with them in the US, as spouses.
From an alien spouse perspective, the law has gaps and it is still imperfect. The Philippines easily adapts to international mores, but at the same time it is heavily influenced by Catholic teachings. Could it be possible that ‘same-sex marriage’ will be legally embraced?
Religious dogma dictates non-recognition of marriage between same-sex couples. Experience would remind us that despite the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 in 1973 that struck down the state law which banned abortions in the US, the Philippines still considers it a criminal offense. In the same sex-marriage debate, which is acceptable: Sanctity of the “traditional” family or family unity?