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Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Returned Peace Corps Volunteers August 2005

Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Returned Peace Corps Volunteers August 2005

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LGB RPCV NewsLetter -August 2005 
August 2005In This Issue
Peace Corps at Pride
Same Sex Couples andImmigration
VSO, an Alternative toPeace Corps
Rainbow Fund to Guate-mala
Peace Corps and theMilitary
Peace Corps and Pride 2005
During June and July LGB RPCVshelped support 8 different PeaceCorps activities at Pride events aroundthe country. We contacted LGBTRPCVs to sit with recruiters at PrideFestivals and participate on panels.We also provided Peace Corps withnewsletters and printed materials. Wesend a special thanks to all the PeaceCorps recruiters and other staff whoorganized and worked these eventsand to the 25 to 30 LGBT RPCVsaround the country who participated.Our ability to contact LGBT RPCVsthroughout the country to get involvedin events like these is dependenton the comprehensive membershiprecords our Membership Coordinator,John Finn keeps. So, an additionalthanks to him. Peace Corps may have participated in more Pride events thanwe mention here, but we describethese we know about in alphabeticalorder by location.
Tricia Siaso, Atlanta Peace Corpsrecruiter describes this years’ AtlantaPride Festival as a great recruitingevent as well as a blast for the PeaceCorps staff and local LGBT RPCVswho helped staff the Peace Corps booth. The weather was great thisyear. There was a good showing at the booth and enthusiastic response fromfestival goers. The Atlanta recruit-ing office was pleased to show it’ssupport to the LGBT community,and also happy to get good recruitingresults.
Peace Corps staff and local LGBRPCVs staffed a table at this years’Capitol Pride. There were 2 to 4 LGBRPCVs at the table all day long.Recruiter Jonathan Lee said it wentlike gangbusters. 350 to 400 peoplestopped by with questions and a showof interest. Big question this year from participants was around the issueof gay marriage and the acceptance of same sex couples as volunteers.
Public Affairs Specialist Jill Thiarereports that the Denver Peace Corpsoffice had a great time at this year’sDenver Pride Fest at Civic Center Park. Weather was beautiful and thevibes fabulous. A steady stream of  people stopped by and 30 signed upto receive more information. LocalLGBT RPCVs helped staff the booth.Additional RPCVs showed up andsaid they’d help out at similar func-tions in the future. The LGB RPCVnewsletter and information about our Mentor Program were handed out andwell received. Pride Fest participantsalso informed Peace Corps staff aboutother community events coming upwhere PC would be welcome.
Monterey, CA
San Francisco recruiter Scott Webband LGBT RPCVs from Santa Cruzand Monterey represented PeaceCorps for the first time at MontereyPride at the Monterey County Fair Grounds. This was the most ambitiousPride event ever held in Monterey(100 miles or so south of San Fran-cisco). Several bands provided livemusic. There was much good food
continued on page 7
his issue brings news from 8 locations about Peace Corps efforts at Gay Prideevents around the country.
Joseph Wheeler and Mike Learned write aboutthe dilemmas facing binational same sex Peace Corps couples.
PaulaMorris tells us about VSO, an alternative to Peace Corps for same sex couples.
Jeff Cotter describes the Rainbow World Fund and upcoming trip to Guatemala.
Wereport on some potentially troubling program linking Peace Corps with the Military....a special thanks to allthe Peace Corps recruit-ers and other staff whoorganized and workedthese events and to the25 to 30 LGBT RPCVsaround the country who participated.
LGB RPCV NewsLetter - August 2005 
Immigration Barriers for Same Sex Partners
- Mike Learned, RPCV Malawi and Joseph Wheeler, RPCV Armenia
Gay and lesbian for-eigners are not discrimi-nated against as indi-viduals in applying for visas and citizenship inthe U.S. In fact, immi-gration officials are notallowed to ask about anapplicant’s sexual orien-tation.
Continued on page 3
The Human Issue
I recently attended the greatest par-ty in San Francisco’s Mission District.A good friend, an RPCV who servedin recent years in a small Africancountry and her African husband, metduring her time in Africa, were hosts.They have a beautiful young daughter and are expecting their second childin a few months. The crowd was likewhat most Peace Corps folks have partied with at one time or another, asenergetically mixed and diverse as itcould be. It was straight and gay, oldand young, black, white, biracial, His- panic, Asian, native-American. Therewas good food and fine beverages.A spirited family of African musi-cians visited with and played for us.Three prominent faces from the local progressive political community madeappearances later in the evening. Name almost any slice of the Ameri-can pie; she or he was there.The next day I wondered if I might be invited to such a party hosted by asame-sex binational couple, a former Peace Corps volunteer and his or her partner met during Peace Corpsservice. Not so likely I think. It wasabout ten years ago that I first cameacross a situation where a gay RPCVhad to make a hard decision about hisfuture. He had been a volunteer in aSouth Asian country. While there hemet the man who was to become hislife partner. After Peace Corps servicethe volunteer was able to facilitate his partner’s enrollment in an Americanuniversity. Years later after collegeand graduate school and many tem- porary visas, the partner was going tohave to leave and return to his homecountry. The former volunteer and his partner made the decision to emigrateto Canada where immigration lawwould allow them to stay together.I have come across so many morecases in the last couple of years. Ihave a good friend, an RPCV here inthe States. He has a partner in China.The partner has applied and been ac-cepted as a student at a university near his American partner’s home. TheChinese partner applied for a studentvisa and was interviewed by an Amer-ican counselor official in Shanghai afew weeks ago. He was turned downafter a five-minute interview. I knowa woman who was a volunteer in aformer Soviet republic. Her partner there and the former volunteer do nothave the financial resources to attemptgetting a visitor’s or student visa.I have a good friendwho was also a volunteer in a former Soviet republic. While there he metand fell in love with a local man.This man is an accomplished profes-sional and has business dealings in theUnited States. He has been able to getvisas to come on business and be withhis partner for limited periods of time.He is now looking for opportunitiesto come on a more permanent basis. Ihave another friend, an RPCV from aSoutheast Asian country. His situationis similar. His partner, a teacher, hasvisited the States a couple of times for short periods. My friend is thinking of an early retirement in this SoutheastAsian country, in part to be with his partner.If you’ve read our newsletter re-cently or participated on our listserv,you’ve read about two recent volun-teers who are trying to figure out howto maintain and progress their rela-tionships with their African partners.Both finances and current immigra-tion law work against them. What areour alternatives, our choices? Theyare few. Immigration opportunities for non-American partners of AmericanLGBT people are a key part of the battle to gain our equal legal rights.Joseph Wheeler, an RPCV (Ar-menia) and a lawyer (though notspecializing in immigration law), hasresearched these issues. He describesmany of the immigration and legal barriers we face.
The Legal Realties
Most binational couples can staytogether after marrying because U.S.citizens and permanent residentshave the right to sponsor a foreignnational spouse to become a legalU.S. resident, and ultimately a citizen.Unfortunately, thanks to the 1996federal Defense of Marriage Act,same sex marriage is not recognizedfor any federal purpose, includingimmigration. This is true even if themarriage was lawfully performed ina jurisdiction that recognizes samesex marriage, such as Massachusettsor Canada. A bill called the “Unit-ing American Families Act” has been introduced in the U.S. Senateand House of Representatives and,if passed, would grant U.S. citizensand permanent residents the right tosponsor their same-sex partner for immigration benefits. It currently hasnine sponsors in the Senate and 66 inthe House. However, the political cli-mate of late has not been particularlyfriendly to either immigrant rightsor gay and lesbian rights. So, samesex binational couples have to pursueother legal avenues to stay together.Gay and lesbian foreigners are notdiscriminated against as individualsin applying for visas and citizenshipin the U.S. In fact, immigration of-ficials are not allowed to ask aboutan applicant’s sexual orientation. So,
LGB RPCV NewsLetter -August 2005 
Another option beingincreasingly considered by same sex binationalcouples is immigra-tion to one of the six-teen countries that nowrecognize same sex partnerships for immi-gration purposes, par-ticularly Canada.
gay and lesbian foreign nationals mayenter the U.S. through the green cardlottery like anyone else, but a verysmall percentage of applicants havethe luck and patience for this. Theymay also enter the country legally byfinding a U.S. employer willing tosponsor them, but such employers arerare and a foreign national generallymust have special skills including afour-year degree inhis or her field.Depending onthe circumstances, political asylummay be an optionfor foreign gaysand lesbians. Asy-lum is based on anindividual’s past persecution andwell-grounded fear of future persecu-tion on account of certain character-istics, includingmembership ina social group. In the past decade,asylum in the U.S. has been grantedto hundreds of gays and lesbians persecuted on account of their sexualorientation in many different countriesincluding Cuba, Russian, Mexico,Ghana, El Salvador, and Lebanon, toname a few. However, the asylumseeker faces two big obstacles. First,the individual must enter the country by other means (e.g., tourist visa,sponsorship by an employer). Thesecond obstacle is proving persecu-tion, which requires more than merely proving discrimination (e.g., incarcer-ation, rape, electroshock “therapy”).Another option being increasinglyconsidered by same sex binationalcouples is immigration to one of thesixteen countries that now recognizesame sex partnerships for immigra-tion purposes, particularly Canada.However, this option requires that one partner become a Canadian perma-nent resident and then sponsor theother. In order to become a perma-nent resident, an alien must haveCanadian relatives or prove that he or she is a “skilled worker” or can makesubstantial investment in a Canadian business. The standard for asylum isalso technically the same in Canadaas in the U.S., but has generally beenapplied more generously with regardto gays and lesbians in Canada than inthe U.S.Some gay andlesbian couplesquietly discuss find-ing an opposite-sexU.S citizen will-ing to marry a gayor lesbian foreignnational or find-ing another samesex couples facingthe same dilemmaand marry eachothers’ partners. Itis impossible toknow how com-mon this practiceis because it requires discretion, butanyone considering such an arrange-ment should beware of the legal andcriminal implications. It is illegal tomarry someone for the sole purposeof conferring immigration benefits. If such a fraud is discovered by the INS,the foreign national will be jailed or deported and deemed permanentlyinadmissible to the U.S. and theAmerican citizen spouse may faceup to a $250,000 fine. Even if thearrangement is undiscovered by theINS, marriage involves many rightsand responsibilities that could haveunintended consequences. Thesedepend on the state you live in, but,for example, the (opposite sex) spousemay be entitled to a big chunk of your estate when you die (regardlessof what your will says), your spousegets to make decisions for you if youare incapacitated, you have a duty tosupport your spouse (even if he or sheruns up huge credit card bills withoutyour approval).This is only a brief description of the legal environment same sex bina-tional couples face and does not takeinto consideration how the law mightapply to any individual’s particular situation. Anyone seriously consid-ering any of these options shouldconsult an attorney experienced inimmigration law. Referrals of GLBT-friendly immigration attorneys (andlots of other useful information) isavailable on the Lesbian & Gay Im-migration Rights Task Force web siteat
www.lgirtf.org Mike Learned, LGB RPCV newslet-ter editor can be reached at 
continued from page 2
PO Box 14332San Francisco CA 94114-4332lgbrpcv@lgbrpcv.orghttp://www.lgbrpcv.org
Editor Mike LearnedLayout Kevin H. Souza
The LGB RPCV Newsletter ispublished quarterly by the Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual RPCV Organization,an affiliate of the National PeaceCorps Association. We promotePeace Corps ideals and the legal,political and social rights of LGBTpeople throughout the world. Weencourage the submission of articlesor photographs for the newsletter.The right to use or edit materialsremains with the editor. Copyrightremains with the author. Sendsubmissions or inquiries to theabove postal or e-mail address.

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