Amsterdam's Mayor Job Cohen married
five American-Dutch gay couples during gay pride to protest U.S.
immigration laws on Saturday.
The five couples were married on the “I
Do Boat” as tens of thousands of revelers cheered on.
“We want to show to the American
public that gay couples cannot get immigration, cannot get equal
rights like heterosexual couples can,” Boris Dittrich, the former
Dutch lawmaker who introduced a gay marriage bill eight years ago,
told Reuters. He sailed on the boat as a guest of the city.
The boat was sponsored by the Amsterdam
City Council and the Love
Exiles Foundation, a group working for marriage equality in the
U.S. for bi-national couples.
The five married Americans are from New
York where their marriages might be legal – the state recognizes
legal gay marriage – but the couples could not have wed there.
If the couples wish to remain together
they will have to live in the Netherlands. Federal law denies gay
and lesbian couples the right to sponsor an immigrant spouse to
become a U.S. citizen under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Love Exiles Foundation was founded by
Americans Martha McDevitt-Pugh and Bob Bragar, who say they are
living in exile in the Netherlands to be with the ones they love
because the U.S. government will not recognize their Dutch marriages.
An estimated 36,000 bi-national gay
couples are denied equal treatment, according to Immigration
Last month, California Representative
Michael Honda introduced the Reuniting Families Act, a comprehensive
immigration reform package that includes New York Representative
Jerry Nadler's Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would
allow gay Americans to sponsor an immigrant partner for citizenship.
The decision to include the UAFA in the
Reuniting Families Act has created a rift among immigration reform
Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
(NHCLC), major allies in securing comprehensive immigration reform,
decried the gay provisions.
“[The gay provisions are] a slap in
the face to those of us who have fought for years for immigration
reform,” Reverend Samuel Rodriguez of the NHCLC told Politico.com.
The five newly married couples, now
forced to live in exile, will join the chorus of bi-national gay
couples and allies asking Congress to pass gay-inclusive immigration
“Hope is all we've got,” said New
Yorker Patrick Decker, who married Stephan Hengst.
But even gay rights backers admit
they'll have a steep incline to overcome.
“You got two very tough issues –
the rights of same-sex couples and immigration,” openly gay
Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told the
Washington Blade. “You put them in the same bill, and it
becomes impossible. We just don't have the votes for it.”