HOUSTON VOICE www.lioustonvoice.com
JUNE 25, 2004
Houston's John Nechman will ride in SF Pride Parade
Nechman is honored
in SF parade as
a Grand Marshal
By JOSEF MOLNAR
Gay Houston attorney John Nechman
will ride on a Pride Parade float this weekend, but that float won't be traveling down
Nechman, chair of Immigration
Equality, an organization that has been
named a Grand Marshal in the San
Francisco Pride Parade, will ride on that
Nechman, of Nechman, Simoneaux and
Frye, specializes in immigration issues as
they affect gay, lesbian and transgender
individuals and couples. He said he is
excited that his organization is being honored in a parade that has hosted gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender leaders
from around the world.
"When you think of the San Francisco
Pride Parade, you think of Harvey Milk
and the great leaders from our community," he said. "And one of the first floats out
will be ours'. What an incredible honor."
San Francisco's parade will also be celebrating the city's recent same-sex marriage successes. Marriages sanctioned by
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom have
horrified conservatives and galvanized the
gay and lesbian community
Nechman said the community is riding
a wave of successes that began with last
year's landmark Lawrence v. Texas case in
which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down
anti-sodomy laws across the United States.
"There is such a euphoria there,"
Nechman said. "People are so uplifted that
they accomplished this and they've shown
America that gay people could get married
and the sky would not fall. Last year
Houston was in the spotlight, and this year
it's San Francisco, so I think this will be
their biggest parade ever."
About 20 Houston members of the
organization will join Nechman and more
than 200 supporters and members from
around the nation as the Immigration
Equality float winds its way through San
Francisco's Market district. Belinda Ryan,
the organization's San Francisco chapter
coordinator, said the group relied on symbolism for its float.
"The float will be a gray boat with a fluorescent pink State of Liberty in it bound
with chains," she said. "The chains are
meant to show that liberty is bound for
GLBT bi-national couples."
In addition to supporters, many long-
term couples affected by U.S. immigration
policies will march carrying signs which
read "United By Love, Divided By Law."
Ryan said the slogan points to federal
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Houston attorney John Nechman is president of an
organization that has been selected as a grand marshal in the San Francisco Pride Parade. (Photo by
laws which allow straight people to enter
marriages with citizens of other countries
for reasons other than love but leave out
gay and lesbian couples.
"A straight American can go online and
get a mail order bride and get her a green
card," she said, "and yet we can't even
sponsor our partners of 25 years."
This year represents the organization's
first year as Immigration Equality, after
changing its name from the Lesbian and
Gay Immigration Rights Task Force.
Nechman said the fight for immigration
equality goes hand in hand with the fight for
U.S. citizens to be legally married. He added
that the immigration equality issue, especially in highly diverse cities such as Houston
and San Francisco, is one of the biggest challenges facing gay and lesbian people.
"This is one of the most incredible
times to be able to speak on issues relating
to the gay and lesbian community," he said.
"And we are happy to have this opportunity to point to the immigration issues of bi-
Immigration Equality has pushed
Congress to consider the Permanent Partners
Immigration Act, a bill that would allow gay
and lesbian people with partners from other
countries to sponsor them as residents. The
bill currently has 110 sponsors in the House of
Representatives and 13 in the Senate.
By putting the spotlight on Immigration
Equality, Ryan said, the group has gained
an additional forum for its issues. Some of
the marchers will engage in outreach and
carry green cards containing information
about the group and resources for bi-
Unfortunately, she said, many bi-national couples with one undocumented or illegal partner are unable to represent themselves in the equality struggle because it
may expose them to scrutiny
"This is a brilliant thing for us to have,
because so many of us couples live under
the radar screen, and don't want our presence to be known," Ryan said. "For us to be
acknowledged has given us a sense of hope
that our community will rally around us.
Raising awareness like this during the
Pride Parade can only do us good."
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