I was recently asked by a couple who were prospective clients, if I was a “gay friendly” attorney. It was the first time I had ever been asked that question and was really quite surprised. I assumed that anyone practicing immigration law would be like minded, as we serve the needs of minorities for the most part. What I learned surprised me. The couple described a local attorney who had encouraged them to pursue a Gay Asylum claim rather than a petition through a same sex marriage. The client was appalled that the attorney expressed his views against same sex marriage and advised them that he wasn’t comfortable representing them if they chose that option.
This took me back to this past June and everything that changed so many lives. I had the opportunity to return home for the summer to New York City. On June 26, 2013, the nation received the amazing news that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was deemed unconstitutional. It was a day we won’t soon forget as New York City came alive. That evening as we walked around the Village, there was a spontaneous celebration that flowed out onto the streets. People were laughing and crying for joy. The excitement was contagious. After an evening of demonstrations and speeches, we walked back to our Murray Hill apartment, still cheering. What we saw when we rounded the corner brought tears to our eyes. Our beautiful Empire State Building had changed its colors to a dazzling rainbow! Soon after, USCIS announced that they would recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of conveying immigration benefits such as family-based visa petitionsas long as the marriage took place where legal.
To think that following such a significant change in our county, educated people can still discriminate and harbor feelings that oppose the basic rights every individual. I am convinced that I have found my calling as an immigration advocate.
Many of my clients are gay, lesbian and transgender and I am proud to be their representative in immigration proceedings. So, the next time I’m asked, if I’m a “gay friendly” attorney, I will be proud to answer an unqualified YES!