Posted by: gaybatumi | August 17, 2010

‘Eat Pray Love’ Author to Lobby for Gay Immigrants


The author of the runaway best-seller “Eat Pray Love,” whose foreign-born lover was barred from permanently living with her in the U.S., will go to Capitol Hill next month to lobby for changing immigration laws to allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their partners from other countries.

Elizabeth Gilbert, whose memoir was made into a film starring Julia Roberts that opens today, will announce today that she will join gay rights activists to push for passage of the Uniting American Families Act.

The measure would allow lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal status under the immigration principle of “family unification.” Under current law, only partners who are married to American citizens may apply for permanent residency. Although gay marriage is legal in five states and the District of Columbia, the federal government by law defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert attends the the world premiere of ‘Eat Pray Love’ at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 in New York
Evan Agostini, AP
Author Elizabeth Gilbert, seen here attending the world premiere of ‘Eat Pray Love’ at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Tuesday in New York, will head to Capitol Hill next week to lobby for a change in immigration laws to allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their partners from other countries.

According to the advocacy group Immigration Equality Action Fund, more than 36,000 gay binational couples, many of them in committed relationships for years, are affected by current immigration law. Nearly half of those families are raising young children.

“In addition to being unjust and cruel and unconscionable,” Gilbert recently said in a speech to a gay rights organization in New York, “these laws are stupid because they are taking away some of the best and brightest minds and prospects out of the country.”

Gilbert, who is straight, may seem an unlikely gay rights activist, but she came to the issue out of personal experience with the U.S. immigration system.

Her activism stems from the “Love” part of her memoir when she fell for a man she calls Felipe, a Brazilian-born citizen of Australia who was living in Indonesia when they met. Both had survived bitter divorces, and each had sworn off marriage. Yet they yearned to be together forever.

The couple moved into her suburban Philadelphia home and made do as Felipe left the country every three months to comply with visa restrictions. But then, as they returned from a trip overseas, Department of Homeland Security agents at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told Felipe his constant coming and going violated visa laws, and he had to leave immediately. The simplest way for him to stay in the U.S., they said, was to get married.

Gilbert tells the story of their ensuing period of “exile” in Asia, and her research on the state of matrimony, in “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage.” In the end, the couple married and Jose Nunes — Felipe’s real name — got his green card.

But that isn’t an option for gay couples, whom Gilbert said “are forced to do nothing but fight for their lives. And they are in a fight for their lives. And I am proud to be part of that fight.”

The author, who will appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” today, has her work cut out for her.

While the legislation has more than 100 sponsors in the House and more than 20 in the Senate, the move to link gay rights to the already volatile immigration issue is controversial. As the issue roils Arizona and spreads to other states, the bill has stalled in Congress amid concerns by advocates that it will scare away conservative lawmakers who might otherwise be swayed to support comprehensive immigration reform.

Despite the uphill battle, Gilbert plans to visit lawmakers along with activists from the Immigration Equality Action Fund when they hold a lobby day on Sept. 30.

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