1. What Is UAFA?
UAFA (the Uniting American Families Act) is a proposed revision to the existing Immigration and Naturalization Act to insert the words “or permanent partner” everywhere the term “spouse” appears. Its purpose is to enable U.S. citizens to sponsor a non-U.S. citizen for permanent residency (a “Green Card”) if the two people are a same-sex couple in committed, long-term relationship. UAFA defines “permanent partner” in detail and provides for the exact same fines and punishment (up to $250,000 and 5 years in prison) for fraud as those set out for heterosexual couples engaging in marriage fraud.
2. I Was Trying To Find Football Scores. Why Did This Site Come Up?
Coincidentally, the abbreviation for this bill, U.A.F.A. is very similar to that for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Because of spelling correction algorithms built in to many search engines, a search for “UEFA” may contain one or two results for “UAFA.” The obverse is more common, because the term UEFA is far better known worldwide than UAFA.
3. Why Do You Need A New Law? Why Can’t You Just Go Get Married in Massachusetts?
The U.S. Constitution clearly sets out immigration policy as the sole purview of the United States Federal Government. Because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the federal government is legally barred from recognizing any same-sex marriage, whether legally performed in a U.S. state or in a foreign country. Therefore, in the eyes of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is an agency of the U.S. federal government, no state-sanctioned marriage of two persons of the same sex can ever be valid.
The controversial DOMA law is being challenged in court as being unconstitutional on several fronts, but for the time being, the law of the land formally discriminates against same-sex partnerships. UAFA, if passed, would remedy this discrimination with regard to only one federal right: the right to sponsor a life partner for U.S. permanent residency without in any way contravening the “Defense of Marriage” Act.
4. Is UAFA Just Another Way to Accomplish Gay Marriage?
No. According to the U.S. Government Accounting Office, there are approximately 1,138 legal rights, responsibilities, and acknowledgments in U.S. federal law. UAFA would grant only one right to same-sex couples, leaving the remaining 1,137 for opposite-sexuals only.
5. Wouldn’t Gay Marriage Also Solve the Problem?
Maybe. If the federal government were to recognize same-sex marriages performed in any state, without regard to the participants’ current state of residency, it would presumably solve the problem of immigration discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since it is presumed that such recognition is still many years away, the UAFA attempts to address this inequity immediately.
6. Couldn’t the U.S. CIS Just Decide to Start Granting Spousal Visas without Regard to Sex?
No. The “Defense of Marriage Act” would prohibit that.
7. Can’t the President Simply Issue an Executive Order Requiring Fair Treatment of Same Sex Couples?
No. The President cannot on his or her own issue orders that violate existing federal laws. Such an order, reasonable as it may seem, would violate the “Defense of Marriage” Act.
8. Why Can’t the U.S. Citizen in a Male Gay Relationship Just Make a Deal to Marry the Foreign Partner of a Lesbian and Vice-Versa?
Such an arrangement would constitute marriage fraud, a crime punishable by a $250,000 fine, 5 years in federal prison, or both.
9. Why Can’t the U.S. Citizen Just Go and Live with the Foreign Partner in His or Her Country?
In some cases, such an option exists. There are currently 20 industrialized countries that have equalized immigration rights for same-sex permanent partners. Many countries, however, still do not treat same-sex couples equally. Even if such an option does exist for a given couple, the discrimination lies in the forced choice, a choice that a similar (binational) heterosexual couple never has to make. The opposite-sex couple can opt to live in either partner’s country. The same-sex couple cannot.
10. How Long Have You Been Trying to Pass this Law?
The UAFA, originally named the “Permanent Partners Immigration Act,” was first introduced into Congress in the year 2000. It has been re-introduced in every Congress since, each time gradually gaining in Congressional support.
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