On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will meet for a hearing on the Uniting American Families Act.
The proposed bill -- which was introduced earlier this year in the House by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) -- would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that gay Americans can sponsor their partners for residency.
Same-sex couples who have been affected by the current immigration policy will testify at the hearing.
A 2000 U.S. Census estimated that in the United States there are around 40,000 lesbian and gay couples in which one partner is a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) and the other a foreign national.
Supporters of the Uniting American Families Act say that the current laws on the books are especially indefensible considering that U.S. immigration policy is built on a commitment to family unification.
If the bill is passed, the United States would become the 20th country to recognize committed same-sex couples as families for immigration purposes. The other 19 include Canada, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as 13 countries in Europe.