In 1996, while attending graduate school in England, Lisa Bradshaw met a 23-year-old Belgium, Else Debbaut. They fell in love and decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
However, while American heterosexual couples can sponsor their partner for permanent resident status and citizenship, as a lesbian couple, Bradshaw was unable to sponsor Debbaut. In fact, gay people cannot sponsor their foreign partners for immigration to the U.S., no matter how long they've been together or how committed their relationship.
On Valentine's Day, Bradshaw and Debbaut dressed as a giant heart and the Statue of Liberty and handed out Valentine candies in front of the INS building near the Broadway Bridge. That same day, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress that would add the term "permanent partner" to sections of immigration law.
"It's insane and infuriating," said Bradshaw, who is also a member of the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force (LGIRTF). JON JONES
More good news for criminals: Since 1994, when voters passed Measure 11, convicts faced a predetermined number of years in prison--no matter what extenuating circumstances there may have been. Bleeding-heart liberals have tried to roll back the tough-on-crime measure, but until this legislative session, the sentencing guidelines seemed etched in stone.
At the behest of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, House Bill 2070 was introduced to Oregon's legislature a few weeks ago. A similar bill, HB 2605, introduced by Rep. Kelley Wirth (D-Corvallis) is also working its way through the legislative process. Under both bills, a simple word change--swapping "presumptive" with "mandatory"--would allow judges discretion to set the convict's sentence as they see fit. Considerations such as the age of the offender or whether the crime is a repeat offense would determine the length of the convict's prison stay.
Although a measure to repeal Measure 11 was shot down by voters two years ago, the current budget crisis has many legislators willing to reconsider mandatory minimum sentences.
"As the budget continues to put a stranglehold on dollars, we need to prioritize," says Rep. Max Williams (R-Tigard), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. More than one-third of the current prison population is being held under Measure 11 sentences. ANNE MARTENS