Henry and Josh

Government Officials Create “Super-DOMA” to Separate Married Gays

Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver

Oh, sure, you know all about DOMA, the federal anti-gay law that prohibits marriage. But did you know about Super-DOMA, a law that forces federal employees to go above and beyond existing statutes and create extra limitations on LGBT citizens?

If you answered, “gosh, no,” that is probably because Super-DOMA does not actually exist. At least, you won’t find it on the books. But that hasn’t stopped U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from making up new rules from thin air in order to separate Josh Vandiver from his Venezuelan husband, Henry Velandia.

Apparently, immigration officials are so panic-stricken over the thought of protecting gay families that they have magically imbued DOMA with all sorts of new powers and punishments that it does not actually have.

The facts are these: Henry and Josh are legally married. That marriage isn’t recognized by the federal government. Henry is a citizen of Venezuela, and the United States has started deportation proceedings. Henry and Josh asked for “prosecutorial discretion,” which is another way of saying “please make an exception for us due to our special circumstances.” The government does this all the time for straight couples. But for Henry and Josh, they said, in essence, “nope, sorry, DOMA prohibits us from doing that.”

That’s a peculiar response, since DOMA does not, in fact, do anything of the sort. Actually, “peculiar” is probably not the right word for it. Maybe “monstrous” is a better description for forcibly separating a married couple simply to satisfy a law that doesn’t even exist.

Feeling outraged yet? Well, luckily you can channel that anger into some productive action. Everyone can tell their Representative and U.S. Senators to join Representatives Rush Holt, Zoe Lofgren, and 65 other members of the House and Senate who have called on DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to stop all deportations of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans. Also, this Friday, May 6th from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm there will be a rally in front of Newark Immigration Court in New Jersey, the very same courthouse where Henry’s fate will be decided later that day.

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  • Cam

    If given ANY excuse, bigots will jump on it. My guess is that not one of those people even read DOMA. Either they just don’t want to help, or one of their bosses gave them that B.S. excuse.

  • Tuck

    Thank you for covering this story. As the non-citizen half of a binational couple, I am very happy that the outright injustice that has been going on for so long is getting the spotlight it needs.

  • Sveta

    Thank you for covering this story. My wife and I will be facing a similar situation as Josh and Henry in June, too early for any litigation or bills to make a dent in DOMA.

    Our hopes right now are with the media. Any exposure of the issue helps tremendously.

  • JohnAGJ

    This case, along with the others attacking Section 3 of DOMA, seems tailor-made for a Supreme Court challenge. Not only do we have a civil rights argument here, but a federalism argument as well which I know irks the hell out of anti-gay conservatives.

  • FAEN

    These deportations do NOT need to happen.

    Come on President Obama-sign an executive order defering them until DOMA is ruled on. Why are you playing to the GOTP when they aren’t ever going to vote for you anyway. Why not play to your BASE?

  • FAEN


    TUCK: I couldn’t agree more but don’t you also feel(I certainly do)thatthe majority of our community doesn’t know or much care about binationals? I think we would be so much further along had we not have to educate everyone on this issue first.

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