Congressman Pushes for Gay Partners Immigration BillAssociated Press, February 15, 2000
Ben Googins and his boyfriend, Elias Rodrigues Martins, traded a telephone call for Valentine's Day, a short one at that. With Googins living in Manhattan and Martins in Brazil, phone bills average $650 a month.
And they have three months to wait until they see each other again.
"We just want to be together and build a life together like any other couple," Googins said Monday.
That is more difficult than it sounds. While U.S. immigration laws allow heterosexual married couples to sponsor their partners for citizenship, the laws don't permit gays and lesbians to do the same for their partners because there is no legal ly recognized marriage for same-sex couples.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-Manhattan, introduced a bill on Monday that would change that, although even supporters admit it stands little chance of passing in the current Republican-led Congress. Nadler's Permanent Partner Immigration Act of 2000 w ould allow a U.S. citizen in a permanent relationship to sponsor his or her partner for immigration.
Nadler called the bill "simply a matter of common sense and fairness."
"Why do we allow the government to tear apart committed and loving couples just because of who they love?" Nadler said.
The issue has been talked about for years in the gay and lesbian community, but Nadler's bill is the first to deal with the topic, said Lavi Soloway, chairman of the New York City-based Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force.
"We look at it as the very beginning of an important dialogue in Congress," Soloway said. "We're hoping to attract a core of support and to begin building a broader coalition. But we're realistic to know that this bill isn't going to pass right away."
A telephone call placed to Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House subcommittee on immigration, was not immediately returned Monday.
Nadler's bill would introduce the term "permanent partner" into sections of immigration law dealing with legally married couples. Permanent partners would have to demonstrate that they were in an intimate, committed relationship. Each partner m ust be over 18 years old. Certain other restrictions would apply.
Thirteen other countries currently provide immigration rights to same-sex partners, including England, France, Canada and South Africa, Soloway said.
For now, Googins and Martins, both 25, keep in contact as best they can and try to save money to be together. Googins waits tables in midtown Manhattan. Martins is a student. He'd like to work, but with unemployment in Brazil hovering around 30 percent, finding work is difficult.
This article appeared in the Spring 2000 edition of Lesbigay SIGnals
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