Integrity Legal

1st October 2010

Those who follow this blog frequently may take note of the fact that the administration carefully follows the issues associated with LGBT Immigration rights in the United States of America. In a recent posting by Melanie Nathan on the website LezGetReal.com it was noted that LGBT immigration legislation may be introduced in the US Congress quite soon:

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is expected to introduce comprehensive immigration legislation before the Senate adjourns this week for the midterm recess, according to Politico, and a source tells The Advocate that the legislation will be LGBT-inclusive.

In the past, there have been other attempts by Federal legislators to rectify the current legal restrictions placed on LGBT bi-national couples when it comes to the issue of obtaining US Immigration benefits. To continue to quote directly from LezGetReal.com:

There are an estimated 36,000 (minimum the number since the determination in the year 2000 – also not taking account of social media and current increase in internet meeting) Gays and Lesbians who are either American citizens or residents (all referred to as Americans for the purpose of this article,) who are in love and relationship with a foreigner. Gay and lesbians are denied equality under the Federal Immigration laws of this Country, to sponsor same-sex partners or  State recognized spouses for immigration (greencards) to the USA.

LGBT couples (and the appellation LGBT includes Bi-sexual and Transgender couples and individuals as well as Lesbian or Gay couples and individuals) are currently barred from receiving the same family based immigration benefits as different-sex couples. This restriction is imposed pursuant to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA prevents same sex couples (even those lawfully married under state law) from receiving recognition of their marriage in the eyes of the Federal government (and the benefits which may arise therefrom, including immigration benefits such as the K3 visa, CR1 visa, or IR1 visa or in cases where a couple intends to enter into a marriage in the USA: a K1 visa). There are those who argue that application of DOMA violates the doctrine of States’ Rights. At the same time, others point to the violation of the civil rights of the American Citizen (or Lawful Permanent Resident) petitioners whose Constitutional rights may be being violated through continued enforcement of DOMA. That said, the issue remains a highly charged political matter, to quote further from the aforementioned website:

So here we are – a Congress that may well go into lame duck, a Congress that failed to repeal DADT, that showed no compassion for the children of the immigrant DREAM ACT – and a UAFA barely in the conscience of leadership, unknown to mainstream America and also barely in the minds of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. The question is are we going to be in the Menendez Bill as a pawn, a promise or yet another wedge that will render Immigration Reform impossible in this political climate.

Remember it IS the American who lacks the Equality – and is being discriminated against.  ALL Americans in committed relationships, except gays and lesbians,  have the right to remain in the USA with the person whom they love.

It is not the immigrant per se, who has the right, as immigration is a privilege afforded a foreigner; it is the American who has the right and it is indeed a Civil Right and a Human Rights issue.

The UAFA noted above is an acronym for the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that has, in different forms, been floating around the US Congress for some time. One of the major proponents of this legislation is Representative Jerrold Nadler who has repeatedly supported and introduced legislation which would give equal immigration rights to LGBT couples. It is interesting that the above cited piece brings up the issue of the American Citizen’s rights with regard to US Immigration matters. Although foreign nationals do not necessarily have the same rights under the US Constitution as Citizens there is no doubt that Americans are protected by the provisions of the Constitution. It is this authors opinion that this situation may very well be ultimately decided by the US Courts rather than the US legislature as there are currently two cases pending in two different circuits which could result in the full or partial repeal of DOMA. With regard to immigration, DOMA compels the US Federal government to restrict US family immigration benefits to different-sex couples. Notwithstanding that jurisdictions such as Massachusetts allow same sex marriage. Therefore, the Federal government may be in violation of the “Full Faith and Credit” Clause of the US Constitution by failing to provide equal immigration benefits to same sex couples married in a jurisdiction in the US where such unions are lawful.

Whether the issue of LGBT immigration rights will ultimately be resolved in the US Courts or the US Congress remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: the issue has many implications from both a legal and political perspective.

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa.


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