A bill that would give same-sex partners family status for legal resident applicants was introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is supported by President Barack Obama, who mentioned the idea in his own immigration reform proposal. Some Republicans have warned that adding language about same-sex couples could fracture the already fragile bipartisan coalition that has formed in favor of immigration reform.
The Uniting American Families Act was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who also introduced the same bill in the previous, 112th, Congress. It has 10 co-sponsors so far, all Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). More co-sponsors will likely be added. The previous version had 144 co-sponsors.
The bill would add "permanent partner" to the list of those who could qualify for legal residency as a family member. Under current law, there is no cap on the number of immigrant visas granted to direct family members – spouses and children. Permanent partners and adopted children of permanent partners would be added to that list of direct family members.
If the language of the bill that was introduced in the 112th Congress remains intact, it would only apply to homosexual couples in states that do not allow same-sex marriage. Heterosexual couples would still, presumably, have to marry. The bill appears to assume that same-sex couples in states that allow same-sex marriage would be allowed family status if they got married.
According to the language of the bill, a "permanent partner" relationship is two adults, 18 years old or older, who are "in a committed, intimate relationship," and "intend a lifelong commitment." The relationship is "financially interdependent" and exclusive (they cannot also be married or in a "permanent partnership" with another person). They may not be blood relatives up to the third degree, and they must be "unable to contract ... a marriage cognizable under this Act."
The bill would also give family status to adopted children of same-sex couples.
White House sources told The Christian Post that the UAFA is consistent with what President Barack Obama called for when he announced his immigration reform proposal last Tuesday.
A White House fact sheet states that Obama's proposal "treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will attempt to add a version of the UAFA to the Senate's immigration reform bill while it is in the Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.
In a Tuesday interview with Buzzfeed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the "gang of eight" senators working on immigration reform, warned that including gay partners in the immigration debate could break apart the bipartisan coalition that has been built in favor of immigration reform.
"The immigration issue has so many landmines and pitfalls that it's going to be hard enough to do, as is. I think if [family status for gay partners] becomes a central issue in the debate, it's just going to make it harder to get it done because there's going to be a lot of strong feelings about it on both sides," Rubio said.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have already expressed similar sentiments.
The Christian Post contacted Rep. Nadler's office for clarification of some of the finer points of the bill, but has not received a response at the time of publication.