Israeli Lesbians Become Face of Struggle for Gay Immigrants

Brooklyn Couple Boost Fight for Green Card Equality

Same-Sex Sabras: Adi Lavy and Tzila Levy celebrated on their wedding day in Brooklyn. Now, the Israeli couple is fighting to get American immigration authorities to accept their union.
Same-Sex Sabras: Adi Lavy and Tzila Levy celebrated on their wedding day in Brooklyn. Now, the Israeli couple is fighting to get American immigration authorities to accept their union.

By JTA

Published May 05, 2013.
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Just prior to her flight, Levy told JTA that she was grateful for Gillibrand’s “wonderful” assistance and hoped to return in three months – her permitted time abroad – to a more welcoming United States.

“The future after these months is not cloudless,” she said. “I hope that the U.S. by the summer will be a country with a different atmosphere.”

Levy’s hopes rest on the Leahy bill and parallel efforts that could end the bureaucratic tangles resulting from the federal government’s refusal to recognize gay marriages performed in the growing number of states that allow them.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court held a hearing on a petition that could result in the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which since 2011 the Obama administration has refused to defend in court. During the hearing, a majority of the justices appeared ready to strike down the law.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have legislation pending that would repeal DOMA should the court not strike it down. Its passage is unlikely, however, in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, where a version of the Leahy bill introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) also is under consideration.

“We must lift the hardship for LGBT families until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA,” Gillibrand said. “Regardless of the court’s ultimate decision, it is well past time for Congress to recognize the marriages of all loving and committed couples and finally put the discriminatory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history.”

The Immigration Equality Action Fund leads a coalition of about a dozen advocacy groups seeking relief for what Plummer estimates is 36,000 binational LGBT couples in the United States. Among the groups is Bend the Arc, the Jewish liberal activist group that has been leading efforts in the Jewish community for family reunification rights for gays and lesbians.

Other Jewish groups, including the leading immigration rights group, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, for years have advocated extending such rights to same-sex couples. Hadar Susskind, Bend the Arc’s Washington director, said its congressional lobbying is required because of resistance to Leahy’s proposed law by conservative groups – among them, Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians – that otherwise support immigration reform.

“We felt it was critical to demonstrate that those folks may have that view, but it’s not unanimous within the faith community,” he said.

In the meantime, couples like Levy and Lavy will continue to face the perils of a complex immigrations bureaucracy.

“The last year was one of uncertainty for me and Adi,” Lavy said. “The uncertainty is still going on.”


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