I popped down to London last night after Andrew’s heads up. And I did, of course, meet him. I say ‘of course’ because when I decided on the spur of the moment to go, it was with the assumption that I’d get to talk to him in mind. Not to suggest that was my exclusive motive. I also more than back the cause, as I hope my concern shown on here for gay issues, despite my being straight, demonstrates. A lot of people don’t get this, and I imagine some even suspect I’m a closet bisexual. But I know in my own mind that it’s a pure recognition of the fact of injustice that motivates me to care for an issue I have no personal interest in, except insofar as I see attacks by governments on any of my fellow humans as also constituting an attack on me.
As things turned out, I was quite fortunate to be able to bump into him. The place was packed, and it was only by chance that as I turned around from the bar he was walking up to it, and as I naturally said ‘Hi Andrew’ he responded as if he was bumping into a long lost friend. He asked for a hug, and seemed truly touched to discover both that he had caused my journey, and that I could bring myself to support the cause without having any selfish reason to do so.
I asked whether social attitudes to homosexuality were the one front on which he longs to still live in Britain; the issue on which America is definitely not the world leader. He objected that, when he left the UK at least, this was not the case, but he of course accepted that progress over the past two decades has since been staggering. I said it was mystifying, but he claimed that having attended Oxford at the same time as many now Tory Cabinet ministers – he was at Magdalen at the same time as Hague, and preceded him as Union President – meant that he remained friends with the party’s modernisers and was able to influence them deeply.
Having tried but understandably failed to grab an interview opportunity (I boldly proposed accompanying him on his cab back to Heathrow on the weekend, the same way that Hitch did an interview for Cherwell, but he fairly pleaded exhaustion after writing Newsweek‘s cover story on what was supposed to be his week off), he then spoke to everyone about his own experience of US immigration law. After living there for over a decade on a green card, he returned to his husband after a trip abroad only to be blocked and have ‘HIV+’ stamped in his passport. It was Immigration Equality that facilitated his legal re-entry, and finally got that archaic law overturned, ensuring Andrew’s partner did not have to choose between staying in his country and being with his lover only by leaving.
I met another woman with similar problems. These are the facts: if a heterosexual US citizen falls in love with a foreigner, their partner can acquire immigration rights simply by virtue of proof of that relationship, viz. via marriage. But the principle, sickeningly if inevitably, falls away once the relationship or marriage is gay in nature. The epitome of inequality; an attack on love itself.
In one sense, I already knew how and why this whole situation was a grave injustice merely by sitting here in Oxford in my armchair. The facts were all available online and in my prior principles. But as I said in an email thanking Andrew this morning, there’s nothing quite like seeing and hearing from the victims in the flesh to arouse one’s sentiments even moreso to be on the right side.
You can read more about Immigration Equality here, and donate to help fund their great work.