As Rep. Luis Gutierrez's immigration reform plan moves forward in Congress, he continues to voice his support for any immigration reform package to include rights for same-sex couples in binational relationships.
On Monday, Gutierrez joined Rep. Mike Quigley, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and other gay rights advocates in Chicago "to announce their unwavering support for allowing legal family-based immigration for same-sex couples as part of any comprehensive immigration reform plan," according to a statement from Gutierrez's office.
Gutierrez's plan would enable gay and lesbian immigrants in relationships with Americans to follow the same path to citizenship as heterosexual spouses.
"We need to recognize that one of the main problems facing the U.S. when it comes to immigration is that our legal immigration system is so dysfunctional and restrictive that we have created incentives for people to go around our system rather than going through it," Gutierrez said in a statement. "Nowhere is this more true than for committed same-sex couples who have to make a painful choice between their family and the immigration laws of the U.S. that do not recognize these family units for the purposes of immigration. By disallowing legal immigration and family unity for these couples and families, our immigration laws are separating families and to preventing the reunification of families separated by borders because of immigration bureaucracy and restrictions."
Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that there were more than 35,000 binational same-sex couples in the country according to the 2000 census. Those who want to stay together must rely on work or student visas, "or seek other legal loopholes."
While a similar plan already exists in the House and Senate, Gutierrez hopes the language from the Uniting American Families Act can be added to the immigration reform bill he introduced in December. The UAFA has 100 sponsors in the House and more than 20 in the Senate.
Supporters of the measure say that extending a path to citizenship to those in same-sex relationships has nothing to do with marriage.
"It isn't predicated on recognition of a marriage and it doesn't give any benefits besides allowing couples to stay together," Eric Berndt told the Tribune. Berndt is the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago.
At Monday's press conference, Gutierrez reiterated the importance of keeping families together.
"I am here to say that as far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter to me whether that little girl has one mommy or two mommies. It's none of my business; it is none of the government's business, and it should not make a difference when it comes to our immigration policies."