Senate Talks LGBT Immigration

The Senate Judiciary Committee held the first congressional hearing on the Uniting American Families Act Wednesday. The act would allow gay citizens to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States.

BY Kerry Eleveld

June 02 2009 11:00 PM ET

"Every time U.S. citizens deal with extra cost, congestion, sprawl, or other deterioration in quality of life due to explosive population growth, they can thank one Congress after another that has either raised immigration numbers or maintained the new higher levels," Beck said.

Vaughan argued against UAFA on the basis that it would be very difficult to verify legitimate same-sex sponsors since most cannot present marriage certificates. "There is no mechanism to officially recognize or sanction 'permanent partnerships,'" she said. "If the goal is to give same-sex long-term partners equal access to immigration benefits, then the target should be the Defense of Marriage Act, not the Immigration and Nationality Act."

The White House is expected to hold a summit on comprehensive immigration reform in the next couple of weeks, and officials at Immigration Equality, the lead organization lobbying for LGBT binational families, said the UAFA hearing Wednesday was a sign that Democratic leadership is serious about the legislation.

"The timing is no accident," said Steve Ralls, Immigration Equality's director of communications. "This is a strong signal from Senator Leahy that, as the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction, he wants this to be included in comprehensive immigration reform."

The group's executive director, Rachel B. Tiven, added that they are pushing hard for LGBT inclusion in the larger debate. "We are fighting like hell to keep gay and lesbian families where they belong, which is within comprehensive immigration reform," she said.

Tags: Politics

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