Feminist Group to get $1M Grant from Congress to Enforce IMBRA Internet Dating Law for "Mail Order Brides" - Online Dating Rights Contends that IMBRA Violates Freedom of Speech and Assembly

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Congressmen Jim Moran and Alan Mollohan secured a $1M grant for a feminist group, Tahirih Justice Center, to enforce the IMBRA dating law. IMBRA is a new federal law that prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign citizens if the foreigners have posted information about themselves on internet dating sites. Some Americans can, however, communicate with the foreigners if they first submit to criminal background checks and prepare detailed statements of their personal history. Online Dating Rights contends that IMBRA violates freedom of speech, assembly and is bad public policy.

The House of Representatives has approved a funding bill that includes a $1M grant to a feminist organization called the Tahirih Justice Center in order to enforce a federal dating law. According to the website of Congressman Jim Moran, D-VA, the money will be given to this organization to "increase legal and social services to mail order brides and work with advocates and embassies in other countries to protect these women." http://moran.house.gov/apps/list/press/va08_moran/CJS08.shtml The Congressman secured $300,000 for this feminist group last year.

The funding relates to the International Marriage Broker Act (IMBRA), a law that makes it a crime for American citizens to communicate with foreigners if the Americans see the foreigners' profiles on dating sites. According to Tristan Laurent, a lawyer and administrator of an advocacy group Online Dating Rights, IMBRA is one of the most unconstitutional and poorly designed laws created in his lifetime. Mr. Laurent says that the law was based on misleading and erroneous evidence submitted to Congress by feminist groups intent on keeping foreign women out of the United States. Moreover, Mr. Laurent said that the law was not debated in committee or the floor of Congress.

IMBRA was supported with two claims, that American men who marry foreign women abuse them at greater rates than occur in domestic relationships and that American men marry foreign women and then sell them to local brothels, as implied in testimony by one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D, WA. The other Senate sponsor was Sen. Sam Brownback, R, KS. Yet the only government study shows that the abuse rate is 1/7th that of domestic marriages (http://www.online-dating-rights.com/index.php?ind=downloads&op=entry_view&iden=19) and the sex trafficking statistics were shown to be essentially fraudulent in a recent Washington Post expose http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/22/AR2007092201401_pf.html

Although the politicians and female leaders of feminist groups involved in this law portray the foreign women as less intelligent, less educated and less resourceful than American women and although they call them "mail order brides", such characterizations of the women have been debunked by University of Pittsburgh Anthropology Professor Nicole Constable who performed an exhaustive two-year study of international relationships and who wrote a book about it entitled, "Romance on a Global Stage." According to Professor Constable, "Mail order brides are often depicted as buying into images of their own subservience and marrying out of economic depression. These views are seriously flawed for their orientalist, essentializing and universalizing tendencies, which reflect many now-outdated feminist views of the 1970s."

Tahirih Justice Center is a Bahai NGO that helped get the law passed and joined the US Attorneys in two states to defend the law when it was challenged by dating companies. According to Mr. Laurent, "Tahirih used millions of dollars of taxpayer money to get the law passed, to defend the law and now they will get millions more to enforce it. Just as certain military work has been outsourced to Blackwater, a paramilitary group, the regulation of men has been outsourced to this Tahirih." They were assisted by the National Organization for Women and other feminist groups. According to Mr. Laurent, the true purpose for the law was revealed in a press release which stated: "The American male population is now overly exposed to the message that it is acceptable to desire and actually marry women 'unspoiled' by American materialism and most troubling, 'uninfected' by American feminism. This message may impede the progress of feminism here at home and give American men the idea that it is acceptable to not respect feminist principles that took so long to instill upon them." http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2004/7/emw138739.htm

The primary sponsor of the bill is Congressmen Alan Mollohan, D-WV, who lost his position on the House ethics committee due to irregularities in financial disclosures, including issues regarding his actions in funneling federal funds to nonprofits.

IMBRA was panned by a famous feminist, Wendy McElroy http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2006/0111.html, by a men's rights analyst http://capitolhillcoffeehouse.com/more.php?id=2444_0_1_0_M and by a popular web columnist http://www.newswithviews.com/Roberts/carey193.htm.

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Tristan Laurent
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