Bill Introduced in U. S. Congress to Give Same-Sex Binational Couples Same Rights as Heterosexuals
SAN FRANCISCO, CA —May 9, 2007— In a major step to end immigration discrimination against gay and lesbian couples and their families, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) on Tuesday. This legislation would allow Americans in same-sex binational relationships to sponsor their “permanent partners” for legal residency in the United States, a right currently afforded only to opposite-sex couples under immigration law.
“It is about time the US joined nearly 20 other countries in providing protection for the most basic human rights for its citizens—the ability to live in your own country, with the person you love,” said Michael Lim, Vice President of Out4Immigration (www.out4immigration.org), a grassroots organization that advocates for an end to discrimination in US immigration policy. “Gays and lesbians should have the same immigration rights afforded heterosexuals.” Lim, an American citizen and veteran, has first-hand experience with immigration discrimination. For 12 years, he has been in a same-sex binational relationship with his partner, who is from an Asian country. The couple was forced to live separately for part of their relationship, each in their respective country, because the US does not recognize them as “spouses”. This made them ineligible to apply for a green card under family unification provisions.
“Congressman Nadler and Senator Leahy recognize that the promotion of family unity has long been part of federal immigration policy,” said Lim, who emphasizes that regardless of state laws providing gays and lesbians with civil union and domestic partnership protections, or marriage, as is the case in Massachusetts, immigration is a federal issue. “A lesbian or gay American in love with a person from another country has no rights to protect that relationship federally. At the federal level, you are what are known as ‘legal strangers’. The US government simply does not recognize you as a couple.” In a statement issued on Tuesday, Senator Leahy echoed this sentiment when he said, “Our immigration laws treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships as second-class citizens.”
Congressman Nadler added that the UAFA “is a matter of basic fairness and compassion. We simply ask that gay and lesbian Americans in loving, committed relationships receive the same treatment as everyone else.” The UAFA calls for adding the words “or permanent partner” to current US immigration law wherever the word “spouse” appears. This small but significant change could help an estimated 36,000 same-sex binational couples end an often tenuous existence in the US and begin to live their lives here freely, equally and legally. “I know many couples who have been forced to leave the US—or live apart like my partner and I once did,” said Lim. “The UAFA would not only help American citizens and their partners who are already living in the US, it would also help bring many of them home.”