ACLU Endorses Permanent Partner Immigration Act To Establish Equality in Immigration for Gay Men and Lesbians

February 14, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today endorsed the “Permanent Partner Immigration Act,” introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, as an important and welcome next step toward establishing equality in immigration standards for gay men and lesbians.

“Family unification has always been at the heart of U.S. immigration policy. But as it stands now, federal law prevents many lesbians and gay men from keeping their families,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Instead of intruding into people’s private relationships, Congress should enact fair immigration standards that apply equally to everyone.”

First introduced in the 106th Congress with 60 cosponsors, the bill would add the term “permanent partner” to sections of immigration law that provide immigration rights to legally married couples. By doing so, the bill would allow gay or lesbian citizens to sponsor their partners to become U.S. residents without relying on state or federal recognition of same sex marriage.

Approximately 75 percent of the 1 million green cards and immigrant visas issued each year go to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. However, the INS’s current definition of family excludes same-sex partners. This bill seeks to recognize the reality that a gay or lesbian couple is a family.

Currently, under no circumstances can a U.S. citizen use a committed relationship as a basis for sponsoring a partner of the same sex from a foreign country, no matter how long the couple has been together or how committed their relationship. “Dual passport” gay or lesbian couples must either go to another country to live together or live apart and struggle to maintain their relationships through expensive phone calls and infrequent visits.

Thirteen other countries currently allow the gay partners of their citizens to become permanent residents, namely Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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