In a column published by The Hill this afternoon, California Rep. Mike Honda (D) called on his fellow lawmakers to pass broad immigration reform that incorporates same-sex couples.
According to Honda, the need for comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform is now, but such reform must be inclusive to the continued struggles that same-sex couples face.
Following President Barack Obama's re-election earlier this month, which saw 71 percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballots for Obama rather than Mitt Romney, Republicans have sought to reevaluate their relationship with growing minority populations. Honda argues that these numbers demonstrate the need to prioritize immigration reform.
"In addition to unjust family separation, our broken immigration system does not extend immigrant rights to same-sex partners, and LGBT families are left out of the immigration system," Honda wrote. "The LGBT community’s triumph on Tuesday represents progress for immigrant rights."
Honda introduced the Reuniting Families Act in May 2011, which, among other things, would grant binational same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by straight couples, including the ability for gay Americans to sponsor their partners for citizenship. According to Honda, his legislation would reduce "the backlog of families trying to reunite with their loved ones by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses, including LBGT partners and children, as 'immediate relatives.'"
In his column, Honda continued:
As we move forward to advance LGBT rights, including overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, we must illuminate the realities of same-sex, immigrant partnerships. No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and U.S. citizens should not be separated from their loved ones.
The comprehensive and inclusive Reuniting Families Act will ensure that same sex-partners and families are treated equitably in the immigration system. When we recognize the intersections in the experiences and struggles of immigrant and LGBT communities, we can work together to oppose repressive legislation, fix systems, and support policies that protect rights and promote inclusivity.
According to a study by the Williams Institute, there are about 28,500 binational same-sex couples in the U.S. today. Including the nearly 11,500 same-sex couples in which neither partner is an American citizen, they are raising about 25,000 children. Current immigration policies threaten to tear many of these families apart because of a same-sex partner's inability to apply for permanent residency.
[Photo: Mike Honda (Courtesy of the House of Representatives).]