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Canadian border guard tells lesbian couple to fill out separate forms

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Canadian border guard tells lesbian couple to fill out separate forms

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Same-sex marriage still not recognized by US
East Vancouver residents Karen-Marie Perry and Andrina Perry have been together since early 2005 and have been married since 2008. They share a surname and live together. So when they travel to the United States, Andrina generally completes one customs form for the two of them, as most families do.

But during a recent visit, the couple had to fill out two separate customs forms because they are not considered a family in the United States.

The form says: “Each arriving traveler or responsible family member must provide the following information (only one written declaration per family is required).”

As the couple was approaching US customs at Vancouver international Airport on July 28, a Canadian official approached them, asking if they lived together and how they were related. The couple indicated they were married. The Canadian official then said the couple was required to fill out two forms and couldn’t go through US customs together.

 “I was very angry," Karen-Marie says. She was so shaken that she couldn't even fill out the customs form; Andrina completed it. Karen-Marie even considered abandoning the trip.

When the couple reached the US customs officials, they didn't attempt to confirm the policy.

"The majority of customs officers are quite intimidating," Andrina says. "I figured we might never get there."

Rachel Torres, spokeswoman for US Customs and Border Protection, says US law prohibits same-sex couples from filling out a form as a family. Under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, any federal laws that refer to marriage recognize only unions between one man and one woman, she says.

Immigration Equality, which fights for equal treatment under US immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive individuals, has been pushing the Obama administration to allow same-sex couples to fill out one form, says executive director Rachel Tiven.

"Every Canadian I know is offended by the United States' refusal to recognize couples who are Canadian-married couples,” Tiven says.

She says the Defense of Marriage Act shouldn’t apply to a form that refers to a “family.” And, she says, it’s inefficient for officials to split up families when processing customs papers.

Tiven says she’s heard cases of same-sex couples filling out one form and other cases in which they had to fill out separate forms. But she says it’s unclear if the policy itself has changed over the years.

The organization has received several complaints about the policy, but the Perrys' case is the first she’s heard of in which a Canadian official told a couple to fill out separate US customs forms.

“It certainly isn’t the Canadian officials’ job to do the dirty work for the Americans,” she says.

Unlike the US customs form, the Canadian form doesn’t require cohabitating people to be related or married to fill it out together. Instead, it says, “You may list up to four people living at the same address on one card.”

A Canadian same-sex couple who won the right to marry in Ontario in 2002 also faced a surprise the following year at the US border when they had to fill out separate customs forms. Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell refused to do so and were denied entry, according to their blog.

“This is a case of the United States in essence telling the Canadian government which Canadians qualify as families and which Canadians do not,” they wrote. The couple did not return phone calls or emails.

The Canadian official who approached the Perrys was quite sympathetic and said the US policy has changed so often that it’s hard for Canadian officials to keep track of the procedures, Andrina notes.

Before this trip, the couple had travelled to the United States twice and filled out one US customs form.

“They’re constantly flip-flopping back and forth,” Karen-Marie says. “Is there some sort of alert system for queer communities so we can prepare ourselves for when we’re considered a family and when we’re not?”

Andrina says the experience has made her less likely to travel to the United States.

“It’s one more thing on top of all of the additional security measures and screenings and things that just make you question if it’s even worth it anymore,” she says. “And we want to be somewhere where we feel safe and can be a family.”
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Comments

Heading
I agree the heading of this article is misleading. It lead me to believe that the couple was coming into Canada. Aside from that, my husband and I have always filled out one form going into the states. There was a problem one time and it was kinda funny as the older (late 70's) straight couple behind us were super offended that we were told we could not approach the border desk as a couple. I cant believe how many are writing things like "ITS IS NOT THE SAME COUNTRY!!!" instead of encouraging Canadian gay married couples to stand up for what it right. The fact is we are married and the USA needs to change to recognize that many countries now have legalized SSM. They need to figure out how to deal with it. I think the frustration does come from that fact that sometimes one form is all that is needed and sometimes they demand 2 forms. The USA has no idea how to deal with this and they need to. So stop laying dead and just taking it and telling travelers to 'deal'. Are we all becoming doormats for the USA?
Why is this even news?
Any Canadian who doesn't know that the US doesn't recognize same-sex marriage has been living under a rock. You can't be "appalled" at 10 year old news. I mean, seriously, this was a plot line on Queer as Folk in like 1999!

The Canadian guard was giving the couple a heads-up that the US doesn't recognize same-sex families. If the couple had been filling out one form all this time, then it's something they shouldn't have been doing. It's like other people have stated, you may want to protest unfairness, but the border guard doesn't have any leeway on this -- you want to make a difference, you direct your protests a little higher up (and it's not like there aren't tons of Americans fighting this already).

But the fact that at this late in the game, that they get "upset" for this sounds like they're just clueless.

OMG, I just found out there's scammers in Nigeria -- I'm outraged, when did this happen?

Please!
Canadian Guard just being helpful?
Is it possible that the Canadian Guard was just trying to be help these travelers follow the correct US procedure avoid a confrontation with the US Border officials?
Please, please, please
...stop the Obama-bashing, all right? It's becoming tiresome, idiotic, and ridiculous to believe that you can expect one man to overcome years of regressive policies by the Republican party in just 4 years (especially since he might not get another term in office!)

Want to really affect American domestic policy? Write to any of the Log Cabin Republicans and tell those stupid, deluded losers to stop voting for that party (as Boy George said, being a gay Republican is like being a vegetarian carnivore.) Help your fellow GLBT's to get the GOP out of power, and to get the Green Party into power in most states-maybe then things will change.But above all else please quit the Obama-bashing; it's becoming quite racist, plus a lot more than that.

I have something that most people should read about Obama and the good that he's truly done: http://www.bestoftheblogs.com/Home/22497

As for the issue at hand, I think that people shouldn't be going to the USA until things have calmed down somewhat; obviously they haven't done so.
a few thoughts
I'm curious to know why it would be upsetting to be given a 'heads up' about needing separate cards this particular day because some particular jerk is known to be homo/transphobic. I have crossed into the US many times and know how intimidating officials are and I can appreciate them wanting to get home and not challenge the issue about the cards. I found the entire situation offensive and began to wonder what other travellers would experience returning home after visiting the US with their partners. I would expect 'queer families' to get the same treatment from the US because the issue IS the US - and their irrational laws around defining 'family'. I agree with boycotting the US but for more than just this. Reading this article just builds upon years of american social and cultural oppression and my heart goes out to those people who have to live there. I can no longer imagine myself visiting but what about those who live there?

We have the right to marry in some countries and in some provinces we had to struggle against marriage commissioners. I feel this article highlights that while society has moved into being more accepting, not all of it has and we do need to be aware, as queer peoples, that there are still threats to our being.

This just means I'll be spending more time exploring Canada my fellow Canadian Queers. I say we invite the Americans up here so that they can enjoy the same freedoms - perhaps a dramatic exodus of queers will get Obama to look up.
No outrage?
Stop being so forgiving, for heaven's sakes! I see all these comments saying, "Oh, well, different country, different rules." Well, sure--but don't use that as a defense! The rules here are stupid and bigoted. If you're going to say, "Well, they should have known," at least follow it up with, "Should have known that the Americans are a bunch of bigoted twats."

Sheez. If the situation were reversed and on a flight from California to BC I were told to separate from my husband for customs, I'd do it to comply with Canadian law, but I'd sure as hell still call you a f***ing dips**t for it. Don't give us a pass just because it'd be worse in Somalia or East Timor!
sorry..
America sucks...its an reality that most of us LGBTQ members here have to face..we wish we were you guys and were sorry that you had to experience some of our failures...
Different Country Different Lawn
What a lot of Canadians fail to see when traveling to the United States is that IT IS NOT THE SAME COUNTRY!!! Different rules apply. No matter how the Officers working at the border feel about the issue, they have to enforce the laws. The federal government of the U.S. does not recognize same sex marriage. End of story. The same goes for male female couples that are common law. They need to fill out separate forms as well. Not because they are thought to be worse, but because U.S. law does not recognize them as family. If it was such as awful experience, travel somewhere else. When you go to a DIFFERENT COUNTRY, you need to follow their rules, not the rules of your own country.
I agree...
...with a lot of the previous comments. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and have traveled to the US several times. We've always gone through separately and completed 2 forms. I never even thought about it since I already know the US stand on gay marriage. This story is kind of a "yeah, so?" for me since it's exactly what I expect. My husband is Irish and when we travel to Ireland it's the same.
OOPS - read too fast, headline is correct.
Due to my experience crossing border I read too quickly and mixed up who did what. Please ignore.

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