February 9, 2010 at 10:42 am EST | by Chris Johnson
60 members of Congress call for LGBT inclusion in immigration reform

A group of 60 U.S. House members have signed a letter urging congressional leaders and President Obama to include bi-national LGBT couples this year in comprehensive immigration reform.

Current law prevents LGBT Americans from sponsoring their foreign partners for residency in the United States, impacting an estimated 36,000 same-sex couples and keeping many apart. Signers of the letter say the system in place is “unacceptable” and immigration reform legislation “must include a strong family reunification component inclusive of LGBT families.”

“In truth, no immigration reform bill can be called ‘comprehensive’ unless it includes all Americans, including those who are LGBT,” the letter states.

The group of lawmakers is led by lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Other signers include gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) as well as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who sponsors standalone legislation that would address the situation known as the Uniting American Families Act. Still another signer is Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who included similar language in his Reuniting Families Act last year.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said the lawmakers’ letter “signals that our champions in Congress, and the LGBT community, are ready to work for passage of reform that includes all families, including LGBT families.”

“Passage of immigration reform will require every family standing with their neighbors and loved ones to work for change,” she said. “There are more than 36,000 lesbian and gay binational families counting on us to get this work done.”

During his State of the Union address, President Obama identified immigration reform as an item for the congressional agenda this year. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) are developing the legislation for their respective chambers in Congress.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Unfortunately the President did not identify immigration reform as a priority for this year. Here is the exact quote: “And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -– to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.” Not the emphatic statement that Congress should do it this year, like he did for other issues.

  • I’m not surprised that Obama and the Congress are neglecting gay & lesbian Americans again with immigration reform. The Uniting American Families Act should have been passed as a stand alone bill years ago, but now it appears that the House and Senate don’t even want it to get a vote in the committee, let alone the floor of the house or senate. And you can forget about them attaching it to the immigration bill, because they will surely claim that doing so would doom any immigration bill.

  • Current United States Immigration laws amount to a situation in which denies two people who love each other the right to exist together. This is not to discount the other 1,138 federal rights are also extremely important – but families who are torn apart face a far greater challenge than other same gender couples who do not receive legal recognition and benefits.

    While strict constructionist conservatives may assert that “gay and lesbian people have the same rights as heterosexuals to also marry a member of the opposite sex” – their assertion, if legally tested, would be met with criminal penalties for marriage immigration fraud for a gay or lesbian person to marry and sponsor someone of the opposite sex.

    Therefore they are wrong, Supreme Court Justice Scalia is wrong – wrong to the tune of “a $250,000.00 fine for immigration fraud, deportation and five years in prison” wrong. Not that very many gay and lesbian people have any sincere plans to marry the opposite sex, but here is where this supposed “gays have the same rights as heterosexuals to marry EVEN the opposite sex” anti-gay rhetoric also fails the legal litmus test. And I doubt that Scalia or anyone in the anti-gay crowd would stand behind their rhetorical argument, put their money where their mouth is and actually post bail for someone trying to prove their assertion.

    Absent the provision for same-gender sponsorship, current immigration law establishes a second-class of American citizens who pay taxes, yet are stripped of any legal right to sponsor anyone of either gender.

    To remedy this inequity, gay and lesbian people should either 1) be allowed to sponsor a same-gender partner, or 2) be allowed to enter sham marriages and sponsor an opposite-gender partner and granted both a green card and immunity from immigration marriage fraud prosecution. But there should not be special laws that are designed to deliberately fence all gays and lesbians out of the immigration process.

    The anti-gay political rhetoric is that supposedly gays and lesbians “tear apart families”. The false notion that gays and lesbians hurt any family is rhetorical fearmongering agenda-based speculation rooted in political ideology. Government-imposed anti-gay discrimination and homophobia is what tears apart families, these situation are living proof of real families, real kids, in real communities – not phony rhetoric. If the supposed “family-values” conservatives are really pro-family and pro-child, then they need to set up to the plate, put their money where their mouth is, can the rhetoric, stick to their core values of marriage, families and children and stop forbidding and prohibiting other people to have families. But I expect most to continue to pipe out hot-air political rhetoric and abandon their core principles any way that they can justify their argument with guilt-by-association comparisons to the laundry list of irrelevant peripheral situations. The rest of us need to stand up and support these efforts to truly make CIR to be “comprehensive” for all couples, families and their children.

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