Lawmakers pressure U.S. customs to recognize gay married tourists
October 02 2003 12:00 AM ET
Several Democratic lawmakers sent a critical letter to the Commissioner of the Customs Service on Wednesday calling for an end to the policy that prohibits recognition of same-sex married couples from Canada. The four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who share responsibility for overseeing immigration policy, were responding to the case of Canadians Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, who were refused entry into the United States in September when the couple insisted on including their Canadian marital status on the documents required for entry.
In the letter to Commissioner Robert Bonner, the lawmakers stated that had the two men been allowed to enter the United States with their Canadian marital status listed on the form, "they would have been entitled to no legal rights or privileges in the U.S. as a married couple.... We do not understand why it should be American policy to insist that people seeking to enter our country as tourists from another country repudiate their own country's rules and engage in what are to them wholly inaccurate self-descriptions and in a way that they understandably found to be degrading.... Forcing people to deny their own important values, when this has no legal bearing in the U.S., serves no public purpose, and whatever its motivation, becomes a form of meanness--inflicting emotional pain on people for no reason other than to express our official disapproval of them."
The letter was signed by representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims; Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security; Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution; and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.