Same-Sex Couples Immigration Bill Introduced in Congress, Again

Supporters have reintroduced it every other year since 2001, but it never gets past committee.

By Julianne Hing Apr 15, 2011

On Thursday, New York City Rep. Jerrold Nadler and over a 100 cosponsors reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act, a bill which would allow same-sex couples to sponsor their partners for legal residency in the U.S. The U.S. only recognizes married hetero couples right now. Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a Senate version as well.

"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 on Thursday. "Our Constitution guarantees that no class of people will be singled out for differential treatment–and LGBT Americans should not and must not be excluded from that guarantee."

The bill would add the phrase "permanent partner" to immigration laws that currently apply only to married opposite-sex couples. If the language were added to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, queer couples would be eligible for the same benefits as other married couples, and also be on the hook for the same penalties and immigration enforcement. The UAFA defines a "permanent partner" as an adult who’s in a committed relationship with another adult in "which both parties intend a lifelong commitment."

"It’s appalling that the United States government forces families to separate," said California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a cosponsor of the bill. "As a nation, we should be encouraging the cohesion of American families, not forcing the deportation of partners and parents. This is about discrimination, and in America we are all equal regardless of color, race, creed or sexual orientation."

There are an estimated 36,000 binational same-sex couples in the U.S. right now. The Uniting American Families Act has been around since 2000, and been reintroduced every other year since 2001, but has been unable to advance out of committee every time.