LGBT activists jump into immigration fray, seeking same-sex partner protections, rights

Published: April 7, 2013

Petitioning to come to the United States as a foreign national is complicated. There’s visa paperwork, quotas in many cases, and lengthy wait times. One misstep could mean a lengthy separation from your loved ones.

And that’s just for straight people.

As pro-reform interest groups prepare to fight for their specific priorities in pending immigration reform legislation, LGBT activists aren’t standing on the sidelines.

“There is a shared struggle among the immigrant and the LGBT communities,” said Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality, an organization that offers legal aid to LGBT immigrants. “There is a growing recognition that if we can get fair immigration reform through Congress we can work on a lot of issues together moving forward.”

Gay rights activists say there are several fronts in the immigration fight — from specific provisions for gay Americans and permanent residents seeking to bring a non-citizen partner to the country, to protections for undocumented LGBT individuals, to a broader call for equal rights.

“We’re investing in immigration reform because it is a social justice issue and we have a responsibility to advocate for the kind of world we want to live in,” said Maya Rupert, policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “But beyond that, there are LGBT people who are going to be directly impacted by every provision in the ultimate legislation, so we have to make sure that it’s being done in a way that is inclusive and conscious of their needs.”

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