September 7, 2011

Canadian Lesbian Couple Not Considered Family at US Customs, or, DOMA Blows

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Written by: Dallas
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 So I am flipping through Xtra West Magazine, and a familiar face draws me into an article entitled “Canadian border guard tells lesbian couple to fill out separate forms.” The familiar face is that of my Women’s Studies classmate from my university days in Vancouver, Andrina Perry. Apparently she and her wife of three years Karen-Marie Perry were told at the US Customs counter at the Vancouver International Airport that they, under US law were not considered a family, so they had to fill out seperate customs forms.

Rachel Torres, spokeswoman for US Customs and Border Protection, says US law prohibits same-sex couples from filling out a form as a family. “Under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, any federal laws that refer to marriage recognize only unions between one man and one woman,” she says. That, of course is very different from Canadian laws, as same-sex marriage is legal universally.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality understands the frustration that the Perry’s face, and says it is very common. “Every Canadian I know is offended by the United States’ refusal to recognize couples who are Canadian-married couples.” The organization has heard a multitude of complaints about the policy, but this is the first case they have heard in which a Canadian customs official told the couple to fill seperate forms. “It certainly isn’t the Canadian officials’ job to do the dirty work for the Americans,” she says.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this story are the Reader’s Comments. Jon of Winnipeg says, “What a non-story. This couple should try visiting Indonesia or Iran and demand to fill out the same form. There is no inherent right to have all your Canadian rights applied in every country you visit. And then to top it off, they don’t even bother to ask the US customs agent if they can in fact fill it out? If it’s that big of a deal, don’t go to the US my lesbian friends! And don’t blame the Canadian official for giving you helpful information for entering another country!”

Randy, from Windsor, Ontario has a different viewpoint, “Canadian border guards have no business helping the US enforce its bigoted law that has already been found unconstitutional.  Married same-sex couples entering the US should always present themselves as family.  Make the US defend their policy which has already been found unconstitutional in court, multiple times.  Provoke them?  They started it.  Good neighbours show respect for each other’s families, and Canada is being disrespected every time one of our marriages is treated this way.”

This situation is sticky to say the least. I always say, abide by the laws of the country you are in, regardless of your beliefs. I always said that, because these laws never affected me. Now that this situation involves a friend of mine, and could at some point in my life affect me, I have changed my tune somewhat. To be told that I am not a family in another country, when my own says I am is not ok in my eyes.

In The Headlines

Perez Hilton, Anderson’s First Guests Will Be Amy Winehouse’s Family, Perez Hilton, September 6, 2011.

David Badas, Chaz Bono Makes Dancing With The Stars “Cesspool”, The New Civil Rights Movement, September 6, 2011.

Winston Gieske, Soldier in Scotland Fined For Transgender AbuseThe Advocate, September 6, 2011.

Julie Bolcer, Murders Put Focus on Same-Sex Domestic Abuse, The Advocate, September 6, 2011.

About the Author

|Calgary Contributor| A girl with a passion for equality and all things good. I am first and foremost a friend followed by a big queer, advocate, writer, community builder, and feminist. I have an affinity for Jeopardy and Perez Hilton, and am a Facebook addict. I heart all furry creatures.


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  1. Lori

    While I am always annoyed with ridiculous discriminatory laws, I am more appalled by ‘Jon of Winnipeg’ and his comments: “What a non-story. This couple should try visiting Indonesia or Iran and demand to fill out the same form. There is no inherent right to have all your Canadian rights applied in every country you visit.”


    I am all about equally and Canada does more than its fair share when it comes to welcoming every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Judy!) from every corner of the earth along with their beliefs, religions, etc. I’m truly becoming sick of Canada bending over backwards to accommodate everyone and their dog, only to have our citizens treated with disrespect elsewhere. This couple is legally married. Get over it America and get over it Jon. Just imagine if Jon’s redneck rights were threatened. I’m sure he would be singing a different tune. Really, there’s not much more to say about this. Jon’s a dick, and Andrina and Karen-Marie were treated unconstitutionally.

  2. Natasha

    What a strange situation – a rarely enforced American law being enforced by Canadian border guards? My wife and I have never had a problem filling out one card as a family – I had no idea we were supposed to do anything different actually. We did get “randomly” selected for a car check once, immediately after we disclosed we’re gay. I have a feeling that this “law” is one that most border guards on both sides choose to overlook most of the time.

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