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Friday, February 25, 2011

Amy Spicer: LGBTQ community speaks out on immigration despite risks of deportation and persecution

Originally posted at Imagine 2050. Imagine 2050 is project which includes activists, immigrants, artists and students who are invested in a future nation that embraces multiculturalism and tolerance.

LGBTQ community speaks out on immigration despite risks of deportation and persecution
February 25, 2011
by Amy Spicer

Same-gender sex is illegal in more than 80 countries. Even more shocking, gays and lesbians face the death penalty in several of those countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

With the recent murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato after a newspaper published photos of him and other activists next to the words “Hang Them.”

Despite the threat of violence internationally against the LGBTQ community, there continues to be brave individuals who are taking a stand for gay and immigrant rights, even at the risk of deportation to homelands where their lives may be in danger.

Mohammad Abdollahi’s story first came to light last spring. Abdollahi is a 25-year-old who came to the U.S. as a child from Iran and was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Abdollahi is an undocumented immigrant and he is openly gay.

Last May, he was arrested with three other youth leaders for staging a sit-in protest at the Arizona office of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Their goal was to encourage the passage of the DREAM act, which would allow qualifying undocumented youths to stay in the U.S. while pursuing a degree or enlisting in the military. He was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities after the protest.

He did this despite the risk of being deported to a country where he faces severe persecution for his sexual orientation. In Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death.

Doug Gentry and Alex Benshimol have been together nearly six years. Benshimol is a Venezuelan immigrant who married his partner Doug in Connecticut last year. However, Benshimol is not provided the same opportunity to stay with his spouse as heterosexual married couples, because the U.S. government doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.

Rather than stay quiet and avoid attention, Benshimol has risked deportation to speak up and talk not only about the anti-gay repression he continues to face, but also the need for changes to the system.

Equality California Institute recently held a forum to discuss the challenges that undocumented gays and lesbians face. It was one of a series of workshops on the issue being held throughout California by the Institute, the nonprofit arm of Equality California, the state’s largest gay-rights group.

Mohammad and Alex are just two examples of individuals who are putting their freedom and safety on the line to build a more just future for all Americans.

With these brave steps these individuals are true inspirations both in the fight for equality and in giving a face to the plight of undocumented immigrants.



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