Congressional hearing tomorrow morning, Wednesday, June 3rd.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which
will end current discriminatory immigration policy by allowing
American citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency
in the United States. Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of
Equality Council, submitted testimony on behalf of LGBT
families (copied below with our statement to the press).
Special thanks to our partners at Immigration
Equality, the lead organizational advocate of the bill, for
their hard work on behalf of binational LGBT families!
Monday, June 2, 2009
Family Equality Council Testifies in Support of the Uniting
American Families Act
Legislation will allow American citizens to sponsor their partners,
keep families together
Statement from Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler;
testimony copied below
Media Interviews Available
Boston, MA — The Senate Judiciary Committee will
take testimony regarding the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)
on Wednesday, June 3 at 10:00am in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate
Office Building in Washington, DC. The UAFA will end current
discriminatory immigration policy by allowing American citizens to
sponsor their same-sex partners for residency in the United States.
More than 36,000 same-sex binational couples are affected by
current law. An estimated 47% of these couples are raising
children. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the lead Senate sponsor
of the UAFA and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of Family Equality Council,
has submitted testimony to the committee (copied below).
Statement of Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality
“As a parent, I cannot imagine having my family split apart
because our government refused to recognize my wife and children’s
relationships to each other, yet for thousands of same-sex couples
that is the daily reality they face. Their families are made up
of citizens and non-citizens, but they are families nonetheless.
And that is why U.S. family unification principles should apply to
them. This week, some 16,000 binational same-sex couples raising
children in this country are looking to Congress to see whether
they really support all families. The Family Equality Council
supports comprehensive immigration reform. To be truly
comprehensive, immigration reform must include lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families. I’m optimistic that with
this Congress and Senator Leahy at the helm of this reform,
committed same-sex couples will be treated equally under U.S.
immigration law. I look forward to contributing to this effort, and
we will push hard to educate Congress why this is the right thing
to do for all families.”
EDITORS: To book an interview with Jennifer
Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality
Council, please call or email the media contacts listed
About the Family Equality Council
The Family Equality Council works to ensure equality for lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender families by building community,
changing hearts and minds, and advancing social justice for all
families. For more information, visit www.familyequality.org.
Jennifer Chrisler’s Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee
END DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER
FAMILIES IN IMMIGRATION LAW
Testimony Submitted to the United States Senate Committee on the
Hearing: “The Uniting American Families Act: Addressing
Inequality in Federal Immigration Law”
June 3, 2009
Statement of Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality
On behalf of the thousands of families that support Family Equality
Council, the national organization working to ensure equality for
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families by building
community, changing hearts and minds, and advancing social justice
for all families, I would like to thank Senator Leahy for holding
this important hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (H.R.
1025/S. 424) and same-sex binational families, and for advocating
for inclusion of LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform
The mission of Family Equality Council is to create and protect
happy, healthy families. Central to that is the basic ability of
parents and their children to live together without fear of forced
separation or having to choose between the family they’ve built
and the country they love.
Guiding U.S. immigration policy is this same principle –
“family unification.” U.S. citizens and permanent residents are
allowed to sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes so they may
live together in the U.S. However, this option for unification is
currently denied to same-sex partners, regardless of how long the
couple has been together.
Family Equality Council witnesses the devastating consequences this
has for same-sex partners raising children. Families are torn
apart, relegated to living underground, or forced out of the U.S.
altogether. Children live in fear that one of their parents will be
forced to leave the country.
Consider the case of Barbara and Susan. They have been together for
over six years and are raising two children in Massachusetts, where
Family Equality Council is based. Susan is from the United Kingdom
and in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa. Although Massachusetts has
ended discrimination in marriage against same-sex couples, Susan
and Barbara cannot marry and offer their children the protections
afforded by having married parents. They fear that declaring their
intent to live together permanently would jeopardize Susan’s visa
status and the ability of their family to stay together in the
Walter and Santo have been partners for over 15 years. In 1999, the
couple moved to Michigan where Walter joined the Ford Motor Company
and Santo enrolled as a student at Wayne State University. After
four years, they could no longer keep Santo on a valid student
visa. The couple moved again, this time to New York, where Santo
had received a job offer from a company that would sponsor him for
a work visa. While in New York, they adopted Ethan, fulfilling
their dream of starting a family. After only one year in New York,
however, Santo’s job became untenable and they were forced again
to consider how they could remain on valid visa status. Ultimately,
they decided they could not put Ethan through move after move after
move. They left the U.S. to live permanently in Sydney, Australia.
Walter, Santo and Ethan are together, but they are separated from
their extended family members who remain in the U.S., including
Ethan’s grandmother, aunt and uncle.
These are just two of thousands of similar stories that tell of the
unfair and unhealthy strain current U.S. immigration law places on
same-sex families. Accordingly to the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 47%
of same-sex binational couples – 16,000 couples – reported
raising children in their home.
As a parent, I appreciate what a struggle it would be to navigate
such legal and social vulnerabilities and still raise my twin boys
to be the happy, healthy, thriving pre-adolescents they currently
are. Family Equality Council serves parents all over the U.S. who
do face this very struggle. On their behalf, I appeal to Congress
to pass the Uniting American Families Act and to ensure that
immigration reform is truly comprehensive by including LGBT
families. Let not one more day go by in the U.S. without protecting
families like Susan’s and Barbara’s, preventing families like
Walter’s, Santo’s and Ethan’s from leaving the U.S., and
keeping thousands of parents and their children from living in
daily fear of losing the most central, yet basic piece of family
life – being together.
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