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Sens. Leahy, Collins to introduce Uniting American Families Act for same-sex married couples

BY ALICIA A. CALDWELL, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Patrick Leahy want the government to start affording same sex, married couples the same immigration benefits that heterosexual couples now enjoy.

Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, says he will introduce later Wednesday the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that would provide spousal immigration benefits to same sex couples. Leahy discussed the bill briefly during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform.

Because the federal government does not currently recognize same sex marriages, U.S. citizens cannot sponsor their same sex partners for immigration benefits, including green cards.

The Justice Department is no longer defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court is set to take up gay marriage cases later this year.

Here's the news release from Immigration Equality:

Leahy-Quote-300x300During this morning’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on comprehensive immigration reform, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced he will re-introduce the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) today, along with Senate colleague Susan Collins (R-ME).  Senator Leahy also reiterated his support for UAFA’s inclusion in any immigration reform bill.

“We must also do better by gay and lesbian Americans who face discrimination in our immigration law,” Senator Leahy said during his opening remarks. “Today, Senator Susan Collins and I will introduce the Uniting American Families Act.  This legislation will end the needless discrimination so many Americans face in our immigration system. Too many citizens, including Vermonters who I have come to know personally and who want nothing more than to be with their loved ones, are denied this basic human right.  This policy serves no legitimate purpose and it is wrong.”

Immigration Equality hailed Chairman Leahy’s remarks, and pledged support for his efforts to ensure passage of an inclusive immigration reform bill.

“Immigration Equality commends Senator Leahy for building bipartisan support in the Senate on behalf of the Uniting American Families Act,” said the group’s executive director, Rachel B. Tiven. “Chairman Leahy opened his Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform this morning by specifically calling for an inclusive reform package that will ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans do not face separation from their spouses or exile abroad. His leadership sets the tone for the Committee’s work on fixing our country’s broken immigration system. He and Senator Collins are now part of a coalition of leaders, including President Obama, who have pledged their support for our families. We join them in committing our support for getting an LGBT-inclusive immigration bill on the President’s desk.”

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