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Rediscovering Family: Jensi Albright and Carmen Gutiérrez

By George T. Nicola
Date: January 16, 2018

Jensi Albright is an American from Maine. Carmen Gutiérrez is Salvadoran. They met in in 2004 and soon fell in love.

Carmen Gutiérrez and Jensi Albright
holding their Mariposa Award plaques

Carmen Gutierrez & Jensi AlbrightThe couple had a Seattle wedding in 2012 when marriage equality was legalized in Washington State. But Carmen was still not a citizen and had no legal right to remain in the United States. Because of problems in her home country, it would have been dangerous for her to return. If they had been a straight couple, Carmen’s marriage to Jensi would have allowed her to obtain a green card giving her permanent U.S. residency. However, at that time, the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) forbade any type of same-gender marriage recognition in federal law. In many attempts to fix their situation, Jensi and Carmen met with legislators in Oregon to share their story and lobby for change; Jensi and her mother also went to Washington DC to join other advocates lobbying Congress and spoke with Senators and Representatives from many states.

In early 2013, the couple worked with Causa, an Oregon Latino immigrant rights group, and held their commitment ceremony during its annual Immigrant Action Day in Salem: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2013/02/portland_women_use_wedding_cer.html.  

A few months later, filmmaker Dan Sadowsky released his video “Love and Country.” Its DOMA Project page headline reads “VIDEO: Love and Country in Portland, Oregon–Jensi & Carmen Build a Life Together for Nearly a Decade and Advocate for an End to DOMA”: http://www.domaproject.org/2013/06/video-love-and-country-in-portland-oregon-jensi-carmen-build-a-life-together-for-nearly-a-decade-and-advocate-for-an-end-to-doma.html.

In 2013, in United State v. Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the portion of DOMA that restricted the federal government from recognizing same-gender marriages. That allowed Carmen to become a permanent resident. Her green card details were arranged by a Portland legal team:
http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregonians-granted-us-residency-through-same-sex-spouses/. Carmen and Jensi’s film remains a moving narrative about the love between two people of the same gender and their brave struggle to maintain their relationship.

In 2015, Carmen and Jensi were recognized for their work when they were given the Mariposa Award from Portland Latino Gay Pride (which has since been renamed PDX Latinx Pride): http://www.pqmonthly.com/community-news/23351. Once Carmen and Jensi’s situation stabilized with Carmen’s updated immigration status, the couple were able to add Carmen’s elderly mother Cruz to their household where they provided her support and eventually hospice care up until Cruz’s death in 2017.  Carmen and Jensi continue to fight on for comprehensive immigration reform, for DACA, and for many other social justice issues impacting their community and loved ones.

 

 

(This article is part of my series “Rediscovering Family”. I plan to publish these story by story over a period of time.)

 

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