Nadler Calls for Reversal of Anti-Same Sex Partnership Policy

Sep 30, 2003

Washington, DC—Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today called on the U.S. Customs Service to reverse a policy that denies same sex married couples the right to enter the United States as tourists if their marital status is included on their entry card.

Nadler's request for a policy change follows a recent action by Customs officials, who refused to allow a same sex married Canadian couple to enter the United States because their Canadian marital status was written on their entry cards. Nadler joined Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) in writing a letter to U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert C. Bonner to urge a reversal of this policy.

"The fact that this Canadian couple was married under the terms of Canadian law has absolutely nothing to do with their status as tourists in America. The Customs Department's action to deny this couple entry unless they changed their entry card to depict an inaccurate description of their marriage serves no legal purpose in this country and is downright degrading. This policy must be reversed immediately," stated Nadler.

The text of the letter to Commissioner Bonner is as follows:

October 1, 2003

The Honorable Robert C. Bonner
U.S. Customs Service
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20229

Dear Commissioner,

We were very disappointed to read that Customs officials refused to allow a same sex Canadian couple to enter the U.S. as long as they insisted on writing their Canadian marital status on their entry card. We are aware that a section of American law prohibits the American government from recognizing same sex marriages. Regardless of the merits of that law, we do not believe that this law compels the result that happened in this case. Had the two men been allowed to enter the U.S. with their Canadian marital status listed on the form, they would have been entitled to no legal rights or privileges in the U.S. as a married couple. Nothing legal in the sense that the statute governs would have been affected had their declaration that they were a Canadian married couple been honored. We should note that many of us would like to change this, but at this time it is the existing policy.

We do not understand why it should be American policy to insist that people seeking to enter our country as tourists from another country repudiate their own country’s rules and engage in what are to them wholly inaccurate self descriptions, and in a way that they understandably found to be degrading. Forcing people to deny their own important values, when this has no legal bearing in the U.S., serves no valid public purpose, and whatever its motivation, becomes a form of meanness - inflicting emotional pain on people for no reason other than to express our official disapproval of them. We urge you to reverse this policy.