It’s been six years exactly since I first received a message on my MySpace account from my now soon to be husband. One year later, after many many Skype conversations, we met in Barcelona, Spain. Vincent turned out to be everything I expected, and more. For the first time I felt like I met someone who was not only a perfect partner, but best friend. Every time I think back to the first time I met him in person it sends butterflies straight to my stomach. Needless to say, we decided that we would make a real go of the relationship, promising that one of us would move over after we both graduated from University.
As with many bi-national couples who have decided to move closer together, we decided that the easiest way to make the leap was by getting married. The UK, being a step further along LGBT equality path seemed like the most obvious choice. This is because although the USA has some equal marriage laws at the state level, it is not recognised on a federal level and therefore immigration is not possible. Everything seemed rosy, that is, until the UK government changed a law which makes it almost impossible for bi-national couples to come together.
The new law states that for a spouse to come to Britain the sponsor must be earning over £18,600. Triple the amount of the previous law which only required £5,500 a year excluding housing costs. The reason? A government consultation decided that £18,600 was the minimum someone needs to earn for a two-person household to avoid being a “burden on the state.”
According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (2011) 40% of the UK population would not be able to sponsor their spouses under the new law if they had to. That’s twenty five million people. Not to mention that if you start looking at the average wages of particular parts of the UK, or particular groups of people like women and under 30s, that number goes even higher.
Initially my efforts to understand the law were directed at the many arbitrary decisions that were made on the part of the consultation. For example, four out of the five expert bodies that were consulted strongly argued for the law not to be changed, or that many countries have much more practical and sensitive laws regarding family immigration (Australia for example). Instead, my focus should have been on the question. Rather than “What income needed to support the family without them becoming a burden on the State,” it should be, “How effective is the current maintenance threshold for family immigration and what possible alternatives are there?”
By not asking the right question, the most important issues were left completely neglected. For example, the UK is only one of twenty nine countries which recognise same sex couples right to a family life. This means that many of the members of the European Convention of Human Rights are in breach of Article 8 (right to family life). Whether or not the new UK legislation also breaks that article are yet to be seen.
LGBT couples across the globe are suffering daily in their fight for equality and right to recognition of their relationships. It is ridiculous that the UK and America are still lagging behind on these issues and that laws can be passed with such disregard to the limited options couples like my fiancé and I have. Citizens within the European Union have freedom to move without such red tape and as two recent graduates with a lot to offer it makes no sense that we would be penalised yet again because we happen to be gay.
Love sees no borders and should never have to!
If you are affected by immigration equality then please stay up to date with the many charities that exist, as well as signing the UK Petition:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/34835 (UK Petition)