Do Ask! Do Tell!
Let us come home!
America’s Love Exiles Support the Uniting American Families Act
Testimony submitted to:
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
“The Uniting American Families Act: Addressing Inequality in Federal Immigration Law”
June 3, 2009
Love Exiles Foundation
Martha McDevitt-Pugh, Chair
Robert Bragar, Board Member
Robert Checkoway, Board Member
Lin McDevitt-Pugh, Board Member
Love Exiles Foundation is the premier organization dedicated to supporting and obtaining migration rights for American gays and lesbians who have been forced to leave the US in order to be united with their non-US permanent partners. Our members are united by love, but divided by law. We have chapters and members throughout Europe as well as in Australia, Canada, Japan and South Africa.
We express our deep gratitude to Senator Leahy for holding a hearing on UAFA and gay and lesbian binational families, and for advocating for inclusion of these families in comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in immigration law deprives US citizens of human dignity and the basic human right to be with our partners. It is also causing a needless exodus from the United States of talented U.S. citizens, their partners, their skills and their property.
This discrimination has created a notable brain drain for the United States. America’s biggest companies are losing gay and lesbian employees to foreign countries. For example, at the “Out For Business” conference sponsored by Lehman Brothers in Montreal in 2006, a senior Human Resources manager at a major U.S. computer corporation told us: “We have no problems with same sex partners. If we cannot get the foreign partner into the US, we just move the job to Canada where our gay and lesbian employees can live legally with their foreign partners.”
This is costing the US dearly at a time of economic crisis when America should be attracting jobs rather than exporting them.
When a heterosexual person falls in love with a foreigner, issues arise about where to live together and how to adjust two lives to become one. But when a lesbian or gay American has a foreign permanent partner, this can have calamitous personal consequences. In many cases, US immigration law effectively forces the couple to leave the country, to become “love exiles” and seek refuge abroad.
Love Exiles Foundation is based in the Netherlands for this reason. There are at least 19 other countries around the world which provide immigration benefits for same-sex binational couples. Countries providing these benefits include virtually all of the United States’ close allies in Western Europe, as well as Canada, Australia and Israel and South Africa. These countries ave united around this issue. It is time for the U.S. to join. The inequality of current law is clear. Heterosexual citizens who wish to sponsor their spouses have full rights under rules of family unification. But gay and lesbians Americans have no rights at all to sponsor their permanent partners. This means that gay and lesbian US citizens with foreign partners face hard choices:
A. We can choose to leave the US and seek refuge elsewhere. Sadly, many of us have done this, taking our property and skills to benefit the countries where our families are recognized. We are the Love Exiles.
B. We can struggle with the US immigration system, pressured to find an employer willing to provide sponsorship or a course of study that can offer access to a temporary student visa.
C. When all else fails, some are forced to live in the US in illegality and uncertainty, contracting marriages of convenience or going underground.
Please bring America’s love exiles home.
Please remedy the current violation of human rights for America’s lesbian and gay community.
Please join America’s western allies by acknowledging same-sex permanent partners and our children.
Please pass the Uniting American Families Act as soon as possible.