Thursday, June 4, 2009

Same-sex couples and immigration

While we're celebrating the victories for gay marriage in Maine and New Hampshire, I wanted to point out another big gay rights issue that you may not know as much: same-sex couples and immigration rights. An American straight woman can marry a foreign straight man and sponsor him for a green card, but gay couples cannot. If you happen to fall in love with a foreigner, they'll struggle to stay in the US, frequently be sent back to their own country, and possibly lose the ability to reenter if they go home for a dying relative or some other sort of emergency. CNN has a great article describing the problem here that includes some really touching stories from gay couples.

After 9 years of being ignored, the Uniting American Families Act, which hopes to solve this problem, is finally getting some time in the Senate:
"The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill for the first time Wednesday, after 10 previous attempts to have hearings on the Uniting American Families Act. The bill has 102 co-sponsors in the House and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, including Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council which opposes same sex marriage, has condemned the bill as "yet another attack on marriage at the expense of U.S. taxpayers." "
Oh, you would say that, President of the Family Research Council, wouldn't you? Because the number one goal of any organization with "Family" in the name is to ruin gay families. Blah. Anyway.

While I've always been a strong supporter of gay rights, this issue is especially important to me. My close British friend/coworker is stuck in this exact situation with his long term American partner. He's been here a year and a half on a research visa, and after another year he's going to be shipped back to England. He can't go visit his family because he won't be allowed back in the country, even if one of his parents became deathly ill. It's horrible that this sort of inequality exists that would tear apart relationships (not to mention how idiotic it is to shoo away intelligent people with PhDs who want to be here...but that's another issue).

You can help out by sending a letter to your representative urging them to support this bill - and if you want, there's a nifty little form letter here. It only takes a second, and every little bit helps.

1 comment:

  1. It's the same problem for people who come to work on a visa. I moved to Canada some time back and my partner was permitted to move with me and work too as he was classified as a common-law husband. When I was there I had a number of opportunities to go and work in California on an H1B visa - but I couldn't take any of them up as my partner couldn't come with me. My brother on the other hand was permitted to move his wife and family with him on his L1.