Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum are cosponsoring legislation that would help bi-national same-sex couples keep their families together. Called the Uniting American Families Act, the legislation would allow non-citizen partners of gays and lesbians to gain permanent resident status in the same manner as married couples.
The United States would join most of the developed world in granting such rights: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom all currently allow same-sex partners to become permanent residents.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates (PDF) that 6 percent of same-sex couples are bi-national with Canada and Mexico being the two most common countries of origin. Both countries have legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions to some degree. For heterosexual couples, 5.2 percent are bi-national.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chief author of the bill, has been offering it in the House since 2003. In 2005, he said, “The idea now is to build up more and more pressure, get more and more co-sponsors, until one of two things happens. The pressure becomes unbearable and Republicans finally change, or we get a Democratic Congress, whichever comes first.”
And now with a Democratic Congress and a president who says he will support the bill, supporters are hopeful it will at least get a hearing in committee this year.
But not everyone is happy about the bill. The religious right finds it appalling, considering the bill targets two issues that make them squeamish: immigration and homosexuality.
“‘United American Families Act of 2009 … would allow Americans caught up in immoral homosexual relationships to sponsor their foreign-living homosexual lovers for immigration into the United States,” said Peter Labarbera from Americans for Truth in an email to supporters. “We might rename this last bill the ‘Foreign Homosexual Lovers Importation Act of 2009.’”
Minnesota’s lone senator, Amy Klobuchar, is not a cosponsor.