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Re-Introduction of Uniting American Families Act

by Kathy Drasky Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009 at 12:43 AM
amos@out4immigration.org 415.375.3765

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in the House and Senate today. The legislation calls for an end to the immigration discrimination gay and lesbian Americans face when they seek to sponsor a foreign partner to live with them in the United States. “One of the fundamental principles of American immigration law and policy is the notion of family unification…. Unfortunately, same-sex couples committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as "families" under current federal law, including US immigration law,” said Nadler.

Out4Immigration Hopeful Re-Introduction of Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) Will Get a Hearing, a Vote and a Signature by President Obama

Bills in House and Senate Call for End to Immigration Discrimination against Same-Sex Binational Couples in United States

WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2009 – Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in the House and Senate today. The legislation calls for an end to the immigration discrimination gay and lesbian Americans face when they seek to sponsor a foreign partner to live with them in the United States.

“One of the fundamental principles of American immigration law and policy is the notion of family unification…. Unfortunately, same-sex couples committed to spending their lives together are not recognized as "families" under current federal law, including US immigration law,” said Nadler.

“The idea that immigration benefits should be extended to same-sex couples is not a novel one. Many nations have come to recognize that their respective immigration laws should respect family unity, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation. Indeed, 16 of our closest allies – Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom – recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes,” said Leahy.

This is the sixth time this legislation, formerly known as the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, has been introduced in Congress. The bills call for simply amending existing US immigration law by adding three words – “or permanent partner” – wherever the word spouse appears. It is estimated some 36,000 gay and lesbian American citizens are in same-sex binational relationships and are affected by lack of rights and protections of their relationships at the federal level.

“Today marks a fresh beginning for change toward the discrimination faced by same sex- binational couples,” said Mickey Lim, Vice President of the grassroots organization Out4Immigration, which works to raise awareness about this issue. “We recognize the significance of the reintroduction of the UAFA during Freedom to Marry Week because immigration rights are one of the 1,138 rights same-sex couples are denied at the federal level because our relationships are not recognized by our government.”

The UAFA already has 50+ co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate. Rep. Nadler is hopeful that the bill will finally get a hearing at the Committee level this time around. With a new administration in place, a bill of this caliber – which addresses both LGBT issues and immigration issues – has a good chance of receiving more support than in the past.

“President Obama indicated he supports this legislation during his campaign,” said Lim. “Therefore, we hope the UAFA will finally get a hearing at the Committee level. This will help more people understand the impact that this discrimination has had on hundreds and thousands of same-sex binational couples.”

Once the UAFA gets out of committee, it can go for a floor vote. The significance of having many co-sponsors on board early on indicates the bill has a good chance of passing in Congress. Once that happens it goes to the President’s desk. President Obama is on record saying he wants to “afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.”

For more information:

Rep. Nadler Continues Fight for LGBT Immigrant Rights: Uniting American Families Act Would Allow Americans to Sponsor Permanent Partners: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny08_nadler/UAFA_021209.html

Leahy Introduces Bill To Provide Equality Under Immigration Law: http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200902/021209b.html

The White House: President Barack Obama: Civil Rights: Support for the LGBT Community: Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/civil_rights/

Senator Obama’s Open Letter to LGBT Community Echoes Out4Immigration’s Call: http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/content_detail.asp?=&id=1231&ctid=148

The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR02221:

The Uniting American Families Act (S.1328): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:SN01328:

Human Rights Watch Report: Family Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under US Law: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/us0506/

About Out4Immigration:

Out4Immigration is a grassroots organization based in San Francisco that addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of US immigration laws on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV+ people and their families through education, outreach, advocacy and the maintenance of a resource and support network. For more information, visit www.out4immigration.org. To schedule interviews with same-sex binational couples who are available to speak with the media on this issue, including Spanish-speaking couples, please contact Amos Lim, amos@out4immigration.org, 415-375-3765 or Kathy Drasky at kathy@out4immigration.org, 415-606-2085.

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