The bill–sponsored by Jerrold Nadler (NY-8) in the House and Patrick Leahy (VT) in the Senate–would allow U.S. citizens (and Legal Permanent Residents) to sponsor their long-term, same-sex partner (or what the bill calls “permanent partner”) for immigration.
The need for the law highlights but one of the many ways the U.S. formally privileges “straight” citizens over LGBT ones. The former don’t have to choose between family and country.
So far, the bill is largely unknown among its potential supporters in the population, although professional advocates and organizations like Immigration Equality are doing their part. Of course, the bill is already getting a lot of bottom-up chatter from the anti-same-sex-equality sectors of the population on their blogs and in their newsletters.
“The Uniting American Families Act” isn’t a special piece of legislation when it comes to immigration. It works within existing laws, extending mechanisms of proof of relationship for same-sex partners as well as the same penalties for lying about their relationship. In short, it doesn’t really “rock the immigration boat.” But the bill isn’t intended to address the lack of a humane and just immigration system.
This is a necessary attempt to extend one of the most cherished values in our system of government–equality–to the processes of legal immigration. It is an attempt by legislators in the U.S. to keep pace with the 19 countries in the world that already provide for this measure of equal treatment and recognition. And, at heart, it is about simple fairness.