BEVERLY — Sen. John Kerry has written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in support of a gay couple from Beverly. One of the women faces the prospect of deportation to Pakistan because the federal government does not recognize their marriage.
Kerry said the deportation would not only tear apart a married couple but would place the Pakistani woman in harm's way.
"She is certain that if she is forced to return to Pakistan, her life will be in danger, not only because of her sexual orientation and her marriage to a United States citizen, but for religious reasons as well," Kerry wrote.
Kerry's letter, dated March 27, comes as a federal appeals court in Boston considers a challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Kerry said the Beverly woman lost her student visa because she could not afford to remain in college. Her spouse has filed a petition to sponsor her for a marriage-based green card, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services cannot approve the petition because it uses the Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
In his letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose agency oversees federal immigration laws, Kerry asked that the couple's petition be put on hold until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed or the litigation challenging the law is settled. The delay would prevent the petition from being denied and would allow the Pakistani woman to stay in the United States until the legal battle is resolved.
In an interview, Jacquelyn Moulton said she and Gloria were married in Beverly in October. The Salem News agreed not to publish Gloria's last name because the women say it could endanger her if she is forced to return to Pakistan, which they say is not safe for lesbian women or for Christians. They are also concerned for the safety of relatives of Gloria who live in Pakistan.
The women met four years ago when they were college roommates and said they were brought together by their Christian faith.
Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, but under the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, the federal government cannot approve the green card petition that Moulton has filed for Gloria, Moulton said.
"If we were a straight heterosexual couple, she would get a green card in three months," Moulton said. "Because we're not, she would get denied right away. It's very tough and stressful. We're putting all of our effort into raising awareness. Not just for us. There are thousands of couples like us out there who are affected by the Defense of Marriage Act."
The Obama administration announced last year that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in court, but said the law will still be enforced.
But Lavi Soloway, a lawyer and cofounder of a group called Stop the Deportations, who is representing the Beverly couple, said any decisions on deporting a same-sex partner should be delayed until the legal battle over the law is settled.
Soloway said Moulton and Gloria should not have to worry every day about the possibility of Gloria's being deported.
"No other citizen who falls in love and marries a citizen of Pakistan would be discriminated against in this fashion," Soloway said. "They should not be put through this wringer. Both are 24 years old. They are young women; they should have the same opportunity to fulfill their hopes and dreams as all other couples."
Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act when it passed in 1996. In April 2011, he and several other senators wrote to Napolitano asking that decisions on marriage-based immigration petitions by same-sex spouses be put on hold.
In last month's letter to Napolitano, Kerry called Moulton and Gloria a "remarkable young married couple."
"I know that you and I both believe that every family is worthy of recognition and respect, and that no family should be torn apart based on a discriminatory law," Kerry wrote.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.