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.

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