Tag Archives: binational couples

Religious leaders urge against LGBT protections in immigration bill

Religious leaders said on May 8 that adding protections for LGBT families to federal immigration legislation could risk their support for the bill, setting up a potential Senate showdown.

But civil rights leaders say that the measure isn’t comprehensive unless it includes protections for binational same-sex couples who, because of discriminatory laws, do not have federal recognition of their relationships.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to take up the immigration reform bill – and proposed amendments – at about 9:30 a.m. today (May 9). Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the committee, has prepared amendments that would allow gay Americans or U.S. residents to sponsor their partners for U.S. residence like other married Americans can.

“We’re extremely hopeful that this bill will remain an immigration bill and not get tangled up with the issue of gay rights,” said Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. “But if it did, if it did, the Southern Baptist Convention would not be able to support the bill.”

Religious leaders who joined Land in a conference call with reporters echoed Land’s warnings.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, labeled the gay rights provision “a divisive distraction that must not derail immigration reform.”

Added Jim Wallis, head of the Christian group Sojourners: “This is the wrong place at the wrong time” to deal with the issue of gay marriage.

The four Republicans among the eight senators who wrote the immigration bill also have said that such a provision could cost their support and kill the bill.

“If that issue is injected into this bill, this bill will fail. It will not have the support. It will not have my support,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said last week in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

If Leahy were to offer a gay marriage amendment, attention would turn to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to see whether they would support it. Schumer and Durbin are the two Democratic members of the bill-writing group who are on Leahy’s committee.

“It’s pretty dated to consider LGBT equality as a controversial, hot-button issue like these senators are portraying it to be,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement this week. “In fact, a strong and diverse majority of Americans support equality. These senators are towing a tired line that no longer represents mainstream opinion, and they’re throwing same-sex couples under the bus in the process.”

President Barack Obama included a provision recognizing gay partnerships in his own immigration bill, but has made it clear in recent comments that the Senate measure meets his criteria for an immigration overhaul, even without the provision.

The legislation aims to strengthen border security, create new programs to allow tens of thousands of workers into the U.S. legally while requiring all employers to verify their workers’ legal status, and give eventual citizenship to the 11 million immigrants now here illegally.

The bill is S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

Senate minority threatens to derail immigration bill if it protects LGBT families

LGBT groups are reaffirming support for comprehensive immigration reform following reports that some senators have threatened to derail legislation if it is amended to include protections for binational LGBT families.

“The idea that lesbian and gay couples are the barrier to a bipartisan immigration reform agreement is an offensive ruse designed to distract attention away from the failings of Congress – a body that refuses to come together on popular and common-sense solutions to a host of our country’s problems,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

In April, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced a massive 800-plus page immigration reform bill. It did not contain protections for binational LGBT families, prompting criticism from civil rights advocates and some Senate Democrats.

Earlier this week, the four Republicans in the Gang of Eight – Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona – affirmed in closed-door negotiations on the bill that they do not want to include protections for LGBT families.

“There’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” Flake said, according to The New York Times. “Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.”

Griffin said a handful of lawmakers are trying to portray LGBT equality as a “hot-button” controversial issue at a time when a majority of people support equality, as well as a broad coalition of religious institutions, labor organizations, businesses and civil rights groups.

Griffin said, “This bluster is nothing more than a political maneuver designed to divide the pro-reform coalition and at the same time appease a small but vocal group of social conservatives that will do anything to stop progress for lesbian and gay couples. The LGBT community will not stand for Congress placing the blame of their own dysfunction on our shoulders.”

In a joint statement, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project said: “Our primary goal is to pass a commonsense, compassionate immigration reform bill that puts our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship. That pathway would provide at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented people the opportunity to become full participants in our economy and our democracy.

“We do not believe that our friends in the evangelical faith community or conservative Republicans would allow the entire immigration reform bill to fail simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex couples equal immigration rights. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.

“We all deserve a chance to live with dignity, to pursue our dreams, and to work for a better future and better quality of life.

“Our current immigration system is broken. It dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants, and their friends and families. Comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform is an urgent priority for our nation and the LGBT community.”

Estimates put the number of LGBT adult immigrants in the United States at 1 million, with about two-thirds of them documented and one-third not documented. Also, there are an estimated 32,300 LGBT binational couples in the United States. These couples, unlike heterosexual couples, cannot marry in many states and the federal government doesn’t recognize any same-sex couples.

LGBT groups, according to the statement, want reform to:

• Provide a pathway to citizenship.

• Ensure that family unity remains at the heart of immigration law and policy.

• End unjust detentions and deportations.

• Uphold labor and employment standards and ensure that the enforcement of immigration law does not undermine labor and employment rights.

• Promote a dignified quality of life for border communities by establishing oversight mechanisms to ensure border agencies uphold basic civil and human rights protections.

• Ensure immigrant members of the LGBT community are not relegated to permanent second-class status.

U.S. bill to protect same-sex binational couples introduced

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.