Sen. Al Franken is the sponsor of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last week that would give binational same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act is authored by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and is sponsored by 18 other Democrats.
Even though same-sex marriage is legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, couples in which one partner is not a citizen do not have any right under current federal law.
The bill would make immigration laws equal for same-sex couples, including allowing same-sex partners of refugees and asylum seekers to immigrate to the United States. It also provides for the same penalties for same-sex couples who misrepresent their relationships for immigration purposes as current law does for married couples.
The bill makes provisions for same-sex couples to provide documentation of their partnership.
“A core tenet of our immigration policy is preserving family unity. Yet gay and lesbian Americans are still forced to choose between their country and being with those they love,” said Leahy in a statement. “I hear from Vermont couples who face this difficult decision every year. No American should face such a choice. I hope that my colleagues who supported this important civil rights reform will join me in calling for fairness and equality in our immigration laws.”
In addition to Franken and Leahy, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).