The Safe, Orderly Legal Visas and Enforcement Act, which addresses current U.S. immigration policy but fails to recognize gay and lesbian families, was introduced in the Senate and House on Tuesday by Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy and representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
Adam Francoeur, program coordinator for Immigration Equality, an organization that advocates for LGBT immigration rights, commented on the proposed bill: "Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform, and this bill provides relief to thousands of immigrants for whom the pledge for family unification has been deferred. While we support this legislation and its aims, we are disappointed that this bill does not extend immigration benefits to gay and lesbian partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents."
Current U.S. law provides no ability for a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to sponsor his or her same-sex partner for immigration to the U.S. A bill called the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, now pending in both the House and the Senate, aims to remedy this. Sixteen countries currently provide for same-sex partner immigration, including Great Britain, Canada, and, most recently, Brazil.
According to the Urban Institute there were an estimated 35,820 same-sex binational couples in the United States at the time of the 2000 Census whose relationships were not recognized under U.S. immigration law and who continue to face the threat of one member's removal from the United States.