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美国同性婚姻合法化的经济账

Preston Cooper 2013年07月01日

美国现在开始向外国出生的同性伴侣提供异性移民配偶一直以来享有的权利——留在美国的机会。德州仪器、美国航空公司、万豪国际等公司是推动这个进程的重要力量。他们认为,这个安排具有重要的商业意义,能够帮助他们招徕、留住一些最有才华的员工。

    美国最高法院上周三推翻了《婚姻保护法案》(Defense of Marriage Act)中禁止政府颁布联邦法律承认同性婚姻的条款。同性恋权利拥护者当然为这个裁决感到高兴,为之欢呼雀跃的还包括美国一些大公司——这些公司一直难以留住那些很有才华,但同性配偶出生在外国的员工。

    实行传统婚姻的美国人和合法移民为自己的外国配偶获得绿卡相对而言比较容易。

    传统上,美国公民可以为外国出生的配偶作保,帮助他们获得居留签证,也就是所谓的绿卡。但根据《婚姻保护法案》,女同性恋、男同性恋、双性恋和变性(LGBT)美国人没有同样的权利。它造成的结果就是,美国企业只能眼睁睁地看着一些最有才华的员工离开美国,与其外国出生的伴侣团聚去了。

    3月份,28家美国公司签署了一封联名信,敦促国会本着解决移民问题的目的,承认同性婚姻。德州仪器(Texas Instruments)、美国航空公司(US Airways)、万豪国际(Marriott International)和其他公司声称,让外国出生的配偶在美国生活和工作成为可能具有商业意义。各家公司为重新安置同性恋员工花费了不菲的资金,倒头来却因为这些员工配偶的签证问题而失去了他们。这封信写道:“我们不能失去我们最宝贵的资源——人才。”

    这些障碍也阻碍着公司招募新的员工。美国国际人才理事会(American Council on International Personnel)最近进行的一项调查显示,42%的成员表示,由于美国移民法排除了准雇员将同性伴侣带入美国的可能性,他们错失了不少招募机会。

    许多跨国同性伴侣选择居住在国外,而不是美国。玛莎•麦克德维特•普格就是一个例子。她在硅谷的 Informix Software公司工作了许多年,负责运营这家数据库软件公司的教育和出版业务。她是一名管理人员,管理者一个80人的部门,还曾在监督公司的重组过程中发挥了关键作用——这家公司后来进行拆分并被IBM收购。但后来,她必须事业和同性伴侣之间做出选择。她的伴侣是一位在澳大利亚出生,居住在荷兰的女士。她不情愿地决定离职,把自己的才华带到海外。

    一些同性伴侣已经找到了一起在美国生活的方式。当初美国前众议员吉姆•科尔贝无法为他的巴拿马伴侣赫克托•阿方索办理美国签证时,阿方索通过EB-5投资者签证计划申请获得了成功。这项计划将签证授予在美国作出重大资本投资(50万美元以上),从而创造或保留了至少10个就业机会的个人。科尔贝在接受记者采访时承认,为了走这个途径,他和阿方索不得不拿出一大笔退休储蓄。但对于大多数伴侣来说,这种方式不具备经济可行性。

    上周三的裁决公布之前,佛蒙特州民主党参议员帕特里克•莱希曾经提议对移民法案进行一次修订,以移除寻求在美居住的跨国同性情侣面临的相关障碍。《莱希修正案》(The Leahy Amendment)将在移民法的背景下,有效地承认同性婚姻。但它面临两党议员的强烈反对,其中包括一些民主党议员。这些议员虽然在原则上支持这项修正案,但担心它将扼杀两党就移民问题达成的协议。

    The nation's highest court on Wednesday struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred the government from recognizing same-sex unions in federal law. While gay rights advocates rejoiced at the decision, it's also a win for some of America's biggest corporations struggling to keep talented employees with foreign-born same-sex spouses.

    For Americans and legal immigrants in traditional marriages, obtaining a green card for a foreign spouse is relatively easy.

    Traditionally, American citizens have been able to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for residency visas, known as green cards. But under DOMA, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans did not have the same right. And as a result, U.S. businesses have watched as some of their most talented employees leave to live with their foreign-born partners abroad.

    In March, 28 U.S. companies signed off on a letter urging Congress to recognize same-sex unions for immigration purposes. Texas Instruments (TXN), US Airways (LCC), Marriott International (MAR), and others said making it possible for foreign-born spouses to live and work in the U.S. makes business sense. Companies go through the expense of relocating gay and lesbian employees, only to lose them because of their spouse's visa problems. "We cannot afford to lose our most precious resource: talent," the letter stated.

    The barriers have also hindered companies from taking on new workers. According to a recent survey by the American Council on International Personnel, an association of employers that advocates immigration reform, 42% of member organizations said they have missed out on hiring opportunities because U.S. immigration law precluded the prospective employee from bringing his or her same-sex partner into the country.

    Many binational same-sex couples chose to live abroad rather than in America. Martha McDevitt-Pugh, for instance, spent many years working at Silicon Valley-based Informix Software, where she ran the database software firm's education and publications arm. Managing a department of 80 people, she was a key player in overseeing the company's reorganization ahead of its later split and acquisition by IBM. But when it was time to choose between her career and her same-sex partner, an Australian-born woman living in the Netherlands, she reluctantly decided to leave her job and take her talents overseas.

    Some same-sex couples have found ways to live together in the United States. When former U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) could not sponsor his Panamanian partner, Hector Alfonso, for an American visa, Alfonso successfully applied under the EB-5 investor visa program. This program grants visas to individuals who make a substantial capital investment (over $500,000) in America that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs. Kolbe acknowledged in an interview that he and Alfonso had to dig into their retirement savings to pursue this option, and that it would not be economically feasible for most couples.

    Before Wednesday's ruling, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont pushed an amendment to the immigration bill that would have removed such hurdles for binational same-sex couples seeking to live in America. The Leahy Amendment would have effectively recognized same-sex unions in the context of immigration law, but it faced massive bipartisan opposition, including some from Democrats who supported it in principle but feared that it would kill the immigration deal.

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