July 12, 2007

The U. S. As a Safe Haven for GLBT People

As I've chronicled here over time, even with the limitations on civil rights GLBT face in the United States, there are many nations where the situation is much, much worse. That makes the U. S. an attractive destination for seeking political asylum, according to the Washington Post.

Harassment and abuse of gay men and lesbians is becoming increasingly accepted as grounds for legal asylum in the United States, even at a time of conservative judicial activism, fear about HIV/AIDS transmission and increased scrutiny of asylum seekers. The government does not disclose a breakdown of reasons for granting asylum petitions, but legal advocacy groups in several major U.S. cities said they have won dozens of cases.

Homosexuality, once a de facto condition for barring foreigners from entering the country, is now officially recognized by the U.S. government as a category that might subject individuals to persecution in their homeland, just as if they were political dissidents in a dictatorship or religious minority members in a theocracy.

But although petitioning for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation has become far easier since 1994, when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that a groundbreaking case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as a legal precedent, such asylum cases are still extremely difficult to win, according to lawyers in Washington and elsewhere.

One reason is that applicants face multiple burdens of proof. They must demonstrate that they were abused or harassed by authorities, not merely by angry relatives or drunken hooligans, or that the authorities failed to protect them. They must also prove that they were abused because they are homosexual -- and thus prove that they are, in fact, gay.

It is still an uphill struggle for GBLT people to immigrate into the United States, and the organization Immigration Equality is working to improve that situation. Click on the link if you are interested in learning more about this issue.

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