Bill with Bipartisan Support Would Give Gay and Lesbian Americans with Foreign Spouses Equal Immigration Rights
SAN FRANCISCO – FEBRUARY 4, 2013 – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation that would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign partners equal immigration rights, was introduced today in the 113th Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
This is the seventh consecutive Congress in which Nadler has introduced this legislation, which typically garners support from Democrats, but never enough for the bill to come up for a vote. This time, however, the bill has two Republican cosponsors, and comes at a critical juncture with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) on the table.
“Thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws,” said Nadler, a long-time champion of same-sex binational couples and their families. While many of these couples are legally married or partnered, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars them from receiving federal rights, such as the ability of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign spouse for a green card.
Nadler called this current state of excluding one class of people from equal treatment under the law “an outrage”. While the constitutionality of DOMA is currently in front of the Supreme Court, UAFA could neatly fit into immigration reform overhaul and solve a problem that affects about 40,000 couples – some of whom have been forced to leave the country or overstay a visa in order to avoid being forcibly separated by the U.S. government.
Inclusion in CIR, however, is not without controversy. While President Obama has said that same-sex binational couples fall under the category of family in his immigration reform proposal, current Senate framework omits same-sex binational couples. A Senate hearing on the matter is scheduled for February 13.
Some Republicans have clearly voiced opposition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the so-called “Gang of 8” senators working on CIR legislation, called including same-sex binationals a “social issue” that should not be part of the discussion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that he would not tolerate Republicans looking for excuses like McCain’s to avoid supporting this legislation.
Reintroducing UAFA with bipartisan support bodes well for the House to support an inclusive CIR bill.
Said Nadler, “Any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”
Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer grassroots group that works with same-sex binational couples and their families to empower those affected by immigration discrimination to speak out, applauded today’s reintroduction of UAFA, its bipartisan support and the commitment of Rep. Nadler to see this bill become law.
“We hear every day from couples whose lives are torn apart because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriage or permanent partnership,” said Amos Lim, Community Outreach Director for Out4Immigration. “Immigration reform cannot be considered ‘comprehensive’ unless all families are included. All families means just that all families – including those that are LGBT.”
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For more information:
Uniting American Families Act, LGBT Immigration Reform, Maintains Bipartisan Support in House: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/lgbt-immigration-reform_n_2623557.html
Reid Blasts GOP for Blaming Gays on Immigration Bill Resistance: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/02/03/watch-reid-blast-gop-blaming-gays-immigration-bill-resistance
Out4Immigration blog (featuring stories of same-sex binationals): http://out4immigration.blogspot.com/
United by Love, Divided by Law (visual protest by same-sex binational couples separated by U.S. immigration laws): http://unitedbylovedividedbylaw.tumblr.com
Count Me In / Same-Sex Binationals Share Their Stories: http://bit.ly/O4ICountMeIn