On Valentine's Day, Binational Gay and Lesbian Couples Struggle to Stay Together

by HRC Staff

Human Rights Campaign and Immigration Equality conference call held today hails introduction of Uniting American Families Act, which allows gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor partners for immigration purposes.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, and Immigration Equality, a national group aimed at ending LGBT discrimination in immigration law, lauded today's introduction of the Uniting American Families Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), will provide lesbian and gay Americans the same opportunity as different-sex couples to sponsor their partner for immigration purposes. During a media conference call, Rep. Nadler joined HRC President Joe Solmonese, Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Legislative Staff Attorney John Amaya to discuss the importance of this legislation, along with two binational couples who face the prospect of being forcibly separated under existing immigration laws.

"It should be an outrage to all Americans that our government continues to deny one set of citizens the fundamental rights enjoyed by the rest of its citizens," said Rep. Nadler. "It is time that we as a society finally acknowledge that a committed, loving family is a committed, loving family, no matter whether a couple is gay or straight. It makes no difference. We should be encouraging and rewarding stable families rather than sweeping them into the margins. We must now pass UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act, and grant gay and lesbian binational families the same legal protections-and the same human dignity-as other Americans."

"Like many people across the country, there are Vermonters whose partners are foreign nationals and who feel abandoned by our laws in this area. The promotion of family unity has long been part of federal immigration policy, and we should honor that principle by providing all Americans the opportunity to be with their loved ones. I hope all Senators will join me in supporting equality for all Americans and their loved ones," said Sen. Leahy.

"For far too long, our elected officials have ignored the devastating real-life consequences that current immigration policies have had on thousands of gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We thank Representative Nadler and Senator Leahy for their leadership to ensure that these couples are treated equally under the law. We commend Immigration Equality for their continued leadership in fighting this unjust policy."

Under U.S. immigration law, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes. But gay and lesbian Americans are not afforded this basic right. Consequently, many binational gay and lesbian couples are kept or torn apart. The Uniting American Families Act would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration by meeting the same standard as different-sex couples. The bill would impose harsh penalties for fraud, including up to five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines.

This inequality affects more than 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans, according to the 2000 Census and research commissioned by Immigration Equality and conducted by Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"This Valentine's Day, thousands of gay and lesbian Americans who have fallen in love across borders must grapple with an impossible choice between being with the person they love and staying in their country," said Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel B. Tiven. "These couples simply want the same opportunity to prove that their families deserve to stay together."

Audio of the call will be available tomorrow at www.hrcbackstory.org and www.immigrationequality.org/blog/.

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

Immigration Equality is the only national organization devoted to fighting for equal treatment under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants and their families and to winning asylum for LGBT and HIV-positive people fleeing persecution.

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