How Immigration Issues Effect Same Sex Couples
There’s been a lot of talk in the past two weeks about same sex marriage. Iowa and Vermont have joined the short list of states that support full marriage equality, with Washington, DC jumping on the bandwagon as well. And with Tax Day right around the corner, several Queercents contributors have talked about the unfairness of the tax code as it applies to same sex couples.
One aspect that often gets overlooked in the marriage equality debate is the unfairness of US immigration policy as it applies to same sex couples. While heterosexual couples generally have no problem sponsoring their partners for US citizenship, same sex couples are viewed as strangers in the eyes of the US federal government and may not, therefore, sponsor their partners during the immigration process. Ramon over at the Gay Life Guide points out the very serious implications of this policy. “As a result, many gay and lesbian binational couples are forced to either live apart in their respective countries of citizenship or live illegally in one country.”
Two of my friends immediately come to mind. One is living illegally outside of the US with his partner, hoping that his expired visa doesn’t catch up to him. The other is a little more fortunate. His partner’s employer sponsors him for a work visa. But this has to be renewed every year, and in the current economic climate, that relationship has the risk of evaporating. This couple just adopted a baby together. Where will their family be if their immigration status changes?
In February, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jerold Nadler of Vermont re-introduced the Uniting American Families Act. This bill would change US immigration policy so that same-sex couples have the same opportunity to sponsor their partners as heterosexual couples.
The legislation amends the definitions sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act to include definitions for “permanent partner” and “permanent partnership.” The Act defines “permanent partner” as an individual who is at least 18 years of age who is in a committed relationship with another individual at least 18 years of age who is not a first, second or third-degree blood relative, with the intent that this be a lifelong commitment. The individual must be financially interdependent with his or her partner, cannot be married or in another permanent partnership and must be unable to enter into a marriage recognized under the INA with the partner.
Nadler was quoted in the Washington Post in February as saying that the Uniting American Families Act has a good chance of passing under the Obama administration.
For more information about the Uniting American Families Act, check out the Gay Life Guide and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. To take action by contacting your state representatives, log onto Immigration Equality and check out their talking points.
The marriage equality debate isn’t just about the symbolism of weddings and/or vague semantic disagreements over the meaning of the term “marriage.” It’s about economic discrimination and the unequal application of the law, whether it’s the tax code, immigration policy, adoption rules, inheritance law, or the whole host of other legal protections that same sex couples are currently denied by the federal government. The Revolutionary War was ignited over the issue of taxation without equal representation. It’s time to return to the original ideals that this country is supposed to be founded upon. And as Tax Day looms right round the corner, it’s the perfect time to bring this message to our families, friends, and legal representatives.
If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to check out this weekend’s conference hosted by the Immigration Solidarity Network at the University of Illinois-Chicago. They’ll be discussing various aspects of how immigration law effects the LGBTQ community. Info is available on their website.