Human Rights Campaign And Immigration Equality Hail Introduction Of Uniting American Families Act

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON - Today, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, hailed the reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., will allow citizens and legal residents in same-sex relationships to sponsor their partners for immigration purposes.

One of the fundamental principles of U.S. immigration law is the notion of family unification. Approximately 75 percent of the 1 million green cards or immigrant visas are currently issued to family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Tragically, same-sex couples are not recognized as "families" under U.S. immigration laws, and are unable to sponsor their partners.

"For too long Congress has ignored the heart-wrenching real life consequences this policy has had on same-sex couples in committed, lifelong relationships," said Solmonese. "Thousands of same-sex couples are separated or live in constant fear of being stopped by officials who demand to see documentation and threaten detention."

The Uniting American Families Act applies the same standards to same-sex couples that the United States applies to opposite-sex couples where one member is seeking to bring a foreign partner into the country.

"We thank Senator Leahy and Representative Nadler for their continued leadership on an issue that is vitally important to so many same-sex couples in the U.S.," continued Solmonese. "We also commend Immigration Equality for their ongoing legal support to these couples struggling to keep their families together because of this unjust policy."

"Dividing loving families, simply because they are gay or lesbian, is un-American," said Tiven. "We call on Congress to end the very real separation that thousands of same-sex couples and their families must endure because of this unequal treatment by our immigration system."

"The promotion of family unity has long been part of federal immigration policy, and this bill promotes that principle by providing all Americans the opportunity to be with their loved ones," said Leahy. "Our immigration laws treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships as second-class citizens this injustice needs to change. It is the right thing to do for the people involved, it is the sensible step to take in the interest of having a fair and consistent policy and I hope that Congress will act to help demonstrate our nation's commitment to equality under the law."

"Our bill recognizes that American families come in all shapes and sizes," said Nadler. "Our laws should work to keep loving families together and not tear them apart. This is a matter of basic fairness and compassion. I am proud to work with Senator Leahy on this issue. We simply ask that gay and lesbian Americans in loving, committed relationships receive the same treatment as everyone else."

In many cases, binational same-sex couples face prosecution, hefty fines and deportations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. As a result, many U.S. citizens must often emigrate with their partners and families to countries with more fair-minded immigration laws.

"We have struggled so hard to play by the rules," states Kelly McGowan, a U.S. citizen who, along with her partner Natalie Fuz, a French citizen who competes internationally for the United States in kickboxing tournaments, is affected by the current immigration policy. "If Natalie were not so talented we would be out of options and be forced abroad. It's great that her abilities have helped us remain in the U.S. together, but I know so many talented people who have been forced to leave the country because of these discriminatory laws. It's such a waste."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Immigration Equality is a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law to reduce the negative impact of that law on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people and to help obtain asylum for those persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV status.

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