U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Feb. 5 reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act to protect binational same-sex couples at risk of being broken apart by current U.S. immigration policy and an anti-gay federal law.
Nadler introduced the legislation with support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and U.S. Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.),Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., John Conyers, D-Mich., Jared Polis, D-Colo.,DavidCicilline, D-Rhode Island, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.), Mike Honda, D-Calif., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis.
The legislation would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently provided only to married heterosexuals under immigration law. Because the federal government does not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their children as families, many same-sex bi-national couples are torn apart, Nadler said.
He added that the bill – U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont plans to introduce companion legislation – should be considered in any legislative proposal for immigration reform.
“Today, thousands of committed same-sex couples are needlessly suffering because of unequal treatment under our immigration laws, and this is an outrage,” Nadler said in a press statement. “Our Constitution guarantees that no class of people will be singled out for differential treatment – and LGBT Americans must not be excluded from that guarantee. Moreover, any serious legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform absolutely must include gay and lesbian couples and their families.”
Pelosi added, “We must continue to strike down the barriers of discrimination wherever they exist. As we work toward comprehensive immigration reform, we must ensure that the value of all families is valued, respected and recognized in the eyes of the law.”
Gutierrez, who has long championed comprehensive immigration reform and LGBT equality, said, “Our laws ought to reflect reality and the full diversity of what family means in the United States today. I will fight for UAFA because it is the right thing to do and because it protects the interests of all families.”
The legislation had co-sponsorship from the openly gay and bisexual members of Congress, as well as leading LGBT and immigration rights groups.
“Today’s bipartisan reintroduction reminds us that LGBT immigrant families live in Democratic and Republican districts,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Voters sent a clear message in November: they support treating everyone – gay and straight, citizen and immigrant – with dignity and respect. These are true American values. As Congress moves forward on long overdue immigration reform, lawmakers must include UAFA as part of that effort. Our immigration laws must reflect the diversity of our beautiful country and must protect families and family unity. We are grateful to Congressman Nadler for his decades-long leadership on this issue and to his House colleagues from both parties who have joined our efforts.”
Nadler’s office said at least 31 countries allow citizens to sponsor gay and lesbian permanent partners for legal immigration, including Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Both France and the UK now are considering legalizing same-sex marriage.