The Uniting American Families Act passed a preliminary hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee June 3 and is now slowly advancing towards a vote in the Senate, where it is referred to as “Bill 424.”
If passed, the bill will amend existing federal immigration law to include the right for lesbian and gay Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for citizenship or permanent residence. In the bill’s phrasing, “permanent partner” refers to an adult who is in a committed, intimate relationship with another adult, both of whom intend their relationship to be a “lifelong commitment.”
This right is currently afforded only to heterosexual married couples, and is not given through civil unions. For an American in a same-gender partnership with someone who does not hold a permanent residency, the termination of a visa under current federal law can mean the end of a relationship.
“What this unequal policy means is that tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans face a terrible choice between leaving the country to be with the person they love or remaining here in the United States and separating from their partner,” explained New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler in a press release, adding: “This runs directly counter to the goal of family unity, which is supposed to be the bedrock of American immigration policy.”
The legislation is also advancing in the House and being incorporated into Representative Michael Honda’s family reunification bill.