Senator Susan Collins of Maine became the first Republican in the Senate to co-sponsor a legislation that would give same-sex couples the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples, according to U.S. News and World Report. Collins joined a number of Democratic sponsors of the Uniting American Families Act.
Under current U.S. immigration law and the Defense of Marriage Act, gay and lesbian couples do not have the same rights as heterosexual couples regardless of the duration, maturity and/or level of commitment in the relationship. An American-born heterosexual partner can sponsor a foreign-born partner for a green card or other U.S. visa if the partner is not a U.S. citizen. The Uniting American Families Act addresses the problem by providing a legal way for same-sex couples to remain together in the United States.
To qualify, partners would need to submit sufficient documentation of their commitment and undergo an extensive interview process. If they are approved, the American partner would need to sign an affidavit stating they will support the foreign partner for ten years even if the relationship is terminated, according to the Immigration Equality Action Fund.
“This legislation would simply update our nation’s immigration laws to treat bi-national couples equally,” Collins said. “This important civil rights legislation would help prevent committed, loving families from being forced to choose between leaving their family or leaving their country.”
U.S. Census data shows that there are approximately 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples that could be affected by the bill. Forty-six percent of them are raising children and a significant number are also responsible for looking after aging parents.
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