Thursday, April 23, 2009

Emergency Senate bill saves lesbian couple from deporation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - A bill introduced on the house floor yesterday by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is keeping Jay Mercado, her partner Shirley Tan and their twin 12-year-olds together - at least for now, reported.

Mercado, an American woman and Tan, her Filipino partner, live in Pacifica, California with their 12-year-old twin sons, both American citizens. Tan had been ordered to appear for deportation on May 10, but the emergency bill will keep the family together at least through 2010.

Federal immigration law does not currently allow LGBT Americans to sponsor their partners.

Activists from around the country, including those from Marriage Equality USA, Out4Immigration, Immigration Equality and Love Exiles, learned about Tan and Mercado’s plight a month ago, and pleaded with elected officials for help. The story national prominence as a feature article in the April 20 edition of People Magazine.

“Those of us who have followed this case closely are overjoyed for this family. But this case highlights the need for Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) – legislation that has been languishing for 10 years – and would help the estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian Americans in a loving and committed relationship with a foreign partner stay together in the U.S.,” said Amos Lim, co-founder of Out4Immigration.

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), re-introduced in February 2009 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would add the words “or permanent partner” to existing immigration law wherever the word “spouse” appears. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits gay and lesbian Americans from accessing equal immigration rights, along with 1,137 other rights that come with a federally recognized marriage. The UAFA currently has 97 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate. Feinstein is not one of them.

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