U.S. lawmakers reintroduced a bill Thursday that would allow gay Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners for visas, just as straight married couples can. At the same time, Congress members wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he stall deportations for foreign nationals who would gain relief under the bill.
Both actions came nearly two months after the Obama Administration's announcement that it would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the controversial law that reserves federal benefits for heterosexual couples. Since then, Immigration Equality, a Washington- and New York-based nonprofit advocating for gay immigrants, has announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging the law affecting same-sex binational couples.
Today, Democrats, including California Representatives Zoe Lofgren,
Jackie Speier, and Mike Honda, reintroduced the bill that has been
languishing in Congress for a decade -- the Uniting American Families Act, or UAFA. Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the bill in the Senate; with 98 cosponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate, it has the largest number of supporters since its introduction in 2000.
UAFA would allow Americans to sponsor their gay "permanent partners" for green cards -- still the most common and federally prioritized route to
legal residency for heterosexuals. A permanent partner is simply defined as someone who intends to have a lifelong intimate relationship with his or her partner.
We wrote about the conundrum gay
couples face where one partner is a foreign national in last year's cover story, "Worlds Apart."
They face hard choices: Have the immigrant live in the shadows
here, or move to Canada or another country that gives immigration
benefits to gay couples.
In our story about U visas last month,
we wrote about an American citizen who accused his Mexican boyfriend of pushing forward with domestic violence charges
against him, just to obtain a special visa offered to victims of crime.
giving the bill new life, Lofgren and other Congress members wrote to Holder today asking that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services stall any deportations of gay immigrants who would be eligible
for a marriage visa if DOMA would be repealed or UAFA passed.
comes on the heels of an almost identical letter from Senator John Kerry last week.
Support is building for gay couples. Let's see if the bill has more luck this session than it has in the last 10 years.