Bill Is A Significant Step for Binational Lesbian and Gay Couples, Says HRC
The Human Rights Campaign joined a coalition of organizations at a press conference February 14 for the introduction of a bill in Congress that would provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the same immigration rights legal spouses of U.S. residents enjoy.
"This bill will help end the unjust and cruel separation of families," says HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "We applaud Congressman Nadler for taking this initiative and recognizing that immigration law is supposed to be based on protecting families and not tearing them apart based on sexual orientation."
The Permanent Partners Immigration Act, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., would modify the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to include lesbian and gay families.
Currently, U.S. immigration law does not allow lesbian and gay citizens or permanent residents to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate. Approximately seventy-five percent of the one million green cards or immigrant visas issued each year go to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, those excluded from the INA's current definition of family include same-sex partners, unmarried heterosexual couples and other family members.
Each year, current law forces thousands of lesbian and gay couples to break up or live in constant fear of deportation. In some cases, partners of lesbians and gays face prosecution by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), hefty fines and deportation. United States citizens are sometimes left with no other choice but to migrate with their partner to a nation whose immigration laws recognize their relationship.
Fourteen countries, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom recognize lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of immigration.
The New York-based Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, an organization addressing the widespread discriminatory impact of immigration laws on lesbians and gays, anticipates same-sex binational couples will have to meet the same requirements as married couples do. Last year, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act quickly garnered the support of nearly 60 cosponsors.