United States: The Uniting American Families Act

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. to change the immigration laws to allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their foreign partners for residency. H.R. 1024 and S. 424, known as the Uniting American Families Act, was introduced in Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy on 12 February 2009 with 79 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 14 in the Senate.

UAFA represents an opportunity for the U.S. government to recognize the contributions of gay and lesbian Americans and their immigrant families and to treat gays and lesbians as full citizens. UAFA would make a huge difference in the lives of gay and lesbian binational families.

Write your representative

When will the United States will its immigration laws to acknowledge the realities of gay and lesbian families? In just the last few years, over a dozen countries have changed their laws. Countries as diverse as Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, now recognize gay and lesbian families for immigration purposes.

The U.S. is becoming more and more isolated as one of the few western countries that does not acknowledge committed lesbian and gay relationships.

If you're affected by US policy, and you're bothered, angry, frustrated or have given up that U.S. immigration law will ever change...you can wait and hope for the law to change.

But how about taking a few minutes to put your feelings in a letter.

Let your representative know about your life, and how the current laws affect you, your partner, children, parents, friends, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren...all the people who are living without you in their lives on a daily basis.

And how would it be to ask your family and friends to help bring you home by writing to their representatives? You could give your community a chance to support you across all the miles of distance.

Tip: If you are a U.S. citizen living outside of the United States, use your U.S. voting address when writing your letter. Many representatives will not readletters from outside their district or from foreign countries. They need to know that you are a constituent.

Go to the Immigration Equality web site to find out if your representative is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1024 or S. 424.

A letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein

I wrote to my senator. She wrote back and showed that she is aware of the issue: "There are thirteen countries that currently allow sponsorship of homosexual partners and I have asked my staff to review those immigration laws along with the "Permanent Partners Immigration Act of 2001."

8 years later, Senator Feinstein has still not signed on as a UAFA co-sponsor. Her fellow California Senator Barbara Boxer is a UAFA co-sponsor.

Here's my letter:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I am writing today to urge you to take a positive role in shaping a fair immigration policy.

I am a United States citizen and native Californian, born in San Francisco. I have been your constituent for many years, and value the role you have played in supporting the gay and lesbian community as mayor and senator.

While I am a US citizen, my rights are severely limited. I am unable to sponsor my same-sex spouse for a visa to live with me in my home, because current immigration law does not recognize our relationship. We are legally married in the Netherlands, a country that treats same-sex couples fairly and allows us to take advantage of family reunification immigration provisions, regardless of whether or not they are married, and has done so for 20 years.

As a second-class citizen under US law, I have limited choices. I can live separated from my wife, or I can leave the country, as I have chosen to do, to be with my wife and stepson.

Why in this day and age are American citizens forced to leave the country to be with the one they love?

The situation became worse after September 11. My wife and I visit the United States whenever we can to be with my family, usually for 1-2 weeks. We had hopes of making a longer visit of several months in 2003, to rekindle important family relationships and be with my elderly mother. Changes to the immigration law make it much more difficult for her to get a visa for several months, and uncertain whether she will be granted one at the border.

We have been lucky so far when we enter the United States. But we are nervous each time we enter, because the immigration officer has the discretion to refuse entry to my wife. If we were a heterosexual married couple, she would have the choice to immigrate. It breaks my heart to know that if my family needs me, when my mother had major surgery as she did last year, that I am not there to be with her due to US immigration law.

I urge you to take an active role in making US immigration laws fair to all citizens and their families. As a senior senator, I urge you to take a leadership role in finding a balance between national security and fair treatment of American citizens and their loved ones.


Martha McDevitt-Pugh

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Support UAFA

You can support UAFA by writing your congressperson or senator and asking him or her to support UAFA if they have not yet signed on.

If they are already a sponsor of UAFA, thank them for their support. You can find the current list of sponsors or send a letter to your representatives on the Immigration Equality web site.