Immigration Bill Gives Same-Sex Families Equal Protection
Under a framework for proposed legislation, gay and lesbian Americans in committed partnerships with same-sex significant others could gain the same right to help their loved ones become citizens that is currently enjoyed by heterosexuals.
But not if the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has its way. The Bishops called for the provision that grants parity to same-sex couples to be stricken from plans for an immigration reform bill, saying that it could endanger immigration reform for straights.
The Catholic Church is an ardent and relentless opponent to gay and lesbian family equality. The church holds that gays do not "choose" their sexual orientation, but insists that God calls non-heterosexuals to live in celibacy and forsake families of their own.
"While we support the general direction of the framework," a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "we strongly oppose extending marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex relationships." Added the statement, "This proposal threatens to undermine the opportunity to bring together the Congress and the American people around a common solution to the important challenge of immigration reform."
For GLBT equality advocates, however, the provision, which is part of a framework authored by three Democratic senators, was a sign of hope that couples forced to live apart because one of them is a citizen of another country might find some relief. "Today’s inclusive framework is an historic step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender binational families," stated Immigration Equality’s Rachel B. Tiven.
Added Tiven, who serves as the group’s executive director, "The LGBT community is committed to comprehensive immigration reform that includes everyone. Our community understands, all too well, the pain of being punished and singled out for who we are. Our solidarity with the larger immigrant community is deep, and our resolve to fix our broken immigration system is real."
Tiven continued, "We will work for a bill that provides a path to citizenship for the undocumented, including those who are LGBT. Time is of the essence for those facing separation or deportation, and Congress must act, urgently, to pass humane, comprehensive reform."
The framework was created by Sens. Harry Reid, of Nevada; Chuck Schumer, of New York; and Robert Menendez, of New Jersey, an April 29 press release from Immigration Equality said. "The principles, which are meant to guide Congressional crafting of immigration reform legislation, specifically call for key provisions of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to be part of a future reform bill," the release noted.
"Immigration Equality hailed the inclusion of the language, which would allow LGBT citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency in the United States. Under current law, no such sponsorship is available," the release continued. "An estimated 36,000 face imminent separation or exile because of discriminatory immigration policies." Added the release, "UAFA is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York."