Bill Allowing U.S. Citizens to Sponsor Same-Sex Partners Gets Senate Hearing

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Same-sex marriage - Photo: Richard Settle-City of West Hollywood/FlickrIn a development that some activists are calling historic, a bill that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners to immigrate legally into the country is getting its day in Congress, for the first time.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) for Wednesday, June 3. The news came Thursday in a press release by Immigration Equality, one of the organizations pushing for the bill to become law.

As Feet in 2 Worlds reported this week, UAFA would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their partners for U.S. residency in the same way heterosexuals are allowed to petition on behalf of their spouses.

“An estimated 36,000 binational couples are affected by U.S. laws prohibiting gay and lesbian Americans from sponsoring their partners for residency,” Immigration Equality said in the release, adding:

Countless lesbian and gay families, including many with children, are torn apart by U.S. immigration law, or are forced to leave the United States to remain together.

While 19 other nations allow lesbian and gay citizens to sponsor their partners, the United States continues to discriminate against tens of thousands of families.

As the nation prepares to consider immigration reform, the Judiciary Committee hearing will provide an important opportunity for lawmakers to hear from some of those families.

Activists expect three or four binational couples to be able to testify before the senators, Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, told Advocate.com.

“The hearings are really tremendous and an indication of the momentum and traction that the issue has on the Hill, particularly in the context of everything else they have on their plate right now,” Tiven told the LGBT news website.

In another release, Tiven added, “Our voices, our stories and our families will be front-and-center in Washington just as the nation prepares for a critically important debate on comprehensive immigration reform.”

The hearing “is a huge milestone for those who want to eliminate discrimination by giving same-sex partners of American citizens and lawful permanent residents the same rights as heterosexual couples to obtain residency,” wrote Jennifer McFadyen, who covers immigration issues at About.com.

The hearing was scheduled by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the bill’s main sponsor. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.-N.Y.) has introduced it in the House.

6 comments

  1. Ryuun

    I have great interest in these changes as I am one of the 36,000 GLBT married legally before prop 8 passed and my wife is from Germany on a student visa. Like so many others, we too shall be torn apart, and have to make some large decisions on where and how to live.

    Thank you, and we will all keep up the fight until equality rules.

  2. Willy

    well, what I have to say about this is that i am moving in august with my partner to Canada, why? because he can not sponsor me as an american citizen he is,

    I wish it can be possible before August 11 the day we will be leaving from Boston to Toronto.

    Thanks for the awesome jobs guys for keep fighthing this!

  3. John

    All of America,not only gay people,will benefit from the passage of the Uniting American Families Act.

    Consider the city of San Angelo, TX. Mayor Lown had to move to Mexico, where he has dual citizenship, because he can not sponsor his life partner, who is a Mexican citizen. He was to begin his fourth term as Mayor of San Angelo, TX on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. He had to choose between his family and his country.

    As more people come together into same-sex households,

    we will most certainly see more communities needlessly handicapped because of current predjudiced attitudes towards the legitimacy of families that are headed by two people of the same sex.

    Families need to be able to stay together. In our great United States of America, we have the right to the pursuit of happiness.

    This is all we ask with UAFA.

  4. Sharon

    I am an American citizen living in England with my British partner, waiting for the US immigration law to change. This hearing is the most positive step we’ve seen on the UAFA in years, and I can’t wait until Wednesday.

    I am frustrated having to live in a foreign country because America doesn’t support my relationship. Nearly as frustrating, though, is that many of us are uncounted. The “estimated 36,000 couples” Immigration Equality quoted refers to the number of binational couples currently living together in America, in various states of legality (student visas, tourist visas, etc). It doesn’t account for the thousands more who go uncounted because we have been forced to leave American to be with our partners. Because of this, the UAFA will have a far bigger impact than even a group like Immigration Equality can quantify.

  5. Greg

    I have spent the last 3 years of my life fighting to establish myself as a small business owner. Just over a year ago, I met and fell in love with my partner who was here on a student. He was able to get a job and an H1B visa, but not sponsorship for his green card. Just when I am finding a sense of stability in my professional life, the rug is being pulled out from under me in my personal life. I hate this choice. Love or career. Love or U.S. citizenship. My birth family, or my chosen family. It just boggles my mind and NO ONE should have to go through this!

  6. Michael

    We’re an American and French couple. We can’t get married in France, just pacsed (civil union).

    But I (US American) can’t work in France because I’m not European nor married to a European.. I can apply for a change in my visa status to be able to work in France but it’s no guarantee one year after being pacsed. Of course, we can’t go to the states either, my french bf tried looking for a job in the states but employers were turned off by the visa process/timing.. So he had to return to France and after 12 months of separation, I decided to return to France as well.. Although I studied in France for 3 years, completed a Masters in International Business, I CANNOT work in France. On top of all this, unemployment is high in Europe, making it very difficult for my partner to find a long term employment contract.. So we’re both in France unemployed.. But hey, we’re together, that’s the important thing and we’re lucky that France does have a visitor visa option.. But it’s unfortunate that France nor the US allows their citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration benefits… In a years time, I’m sure my savings will be gone, so I’m hoping for a change very soon.. Meanwhile, I’m looking for other countries to immigrate to.. We’ll see..

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