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Rep. Nadler Continues Fight for LGBT Immigrant Rights

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-08), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). This overdue legislation would allow lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married heterosexuals under immigration law. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize lesbian and gay couples and their children as families, many same-sex binational couples are subsequently torn apart.

“In 2009, we should be ready as a society to acknowledge that stable American families come in all varieties,” said Rep. Nadler. “We in fact strengthen our communities – and our nation – by encouraging loving couples and families to stay together and live as cohesive units. Any committed couple deserves the potential to form a life and a family together – this is a basic human right – and whether that couple is gay or straight should be irrelevant. Gay and lesbian Americans in loving, committed relationships deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

UAFA would add the term “permanent partner” to those sections of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that apply to legally married couples. “Permanent partner” is described as an adult who is in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult in “which both parties intend a lifelong commitment.” This legislation would afford equal immigration benefits to permanent partnerships as exist for married heterosexuals, and it would impose the same restrictions, enforcement standards and penalties as are currently in immigration law.

For example, if a person is found to have entered into a fraudulent permanent partnership for the purpose of obtaining a visa for another person, they would be subject to the same five year maximum imprisonment and/or $250,000 maximum fine as a person who contracts a fraudulent marriage. Binational couples would also have to provide ample proof that they meet the definition of “permanent partners,” according to the same standards as heterosexual couples.

At least 19 countries currently allow residents to sponsor lesbian and gay permanent partners for legal immigration, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced parallel legislation today in the Senate.

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