Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opinion: Obama can give gay families equal immigration rights

By Chris Waddling

The recent case of the deportation order against Jay Mercado's partner, Shirley Tan of Pacifica, and the deportation in 2007 of Tim Coco's partner, Genésio de Oliveira of Boston, make a clear point: Individual, time-consuming, last-ditch private bills such as the ones by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier and Sen. John Kerry are not a realistic or viable solution to the blatant and cruel discrimination written into U.S. immigration law.

There is a proposal to deal with the larger problem. The Uniting American Families Act would fix a serious omission in our immigration system that blatantly discriminates against gay and lesbian American citizens and their families. It is moving through Congress, but President Barack Obama should make it law now through an executive order.

These Americans are in long term, loving, and committed relationships with foreign-born partners. But because our federal government does not recognize their relationships, an estimated 36,000 Americans around the world are unable to permanently and legally keep their families together in the United States. Thousands have been forced to leave this country, often with their children in tow, to live in exile with the person they love. They leave behind brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, simply to keep their own nuclear families together.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024) in the House of Representatives. He says this discrimination is "gratuitous cruelty." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the sponsor of S. 424 in the U.S. Senate, says that it forces a choice with which "no American should be faced — to choose between the country they love and the person they love."

Marriage Equality USA is a national grass-roots organization advocating for access to all 1,138 rights and benefits of marriage for all Americans. We've called on the president to issue an executive order that will bestow just one of those rights, that of immigration sponsorship of one's life-partner, and make the Uniting American Families Act law....[Story continued here]

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