Rep. Honda Introduces Bill to Allow Homosexual ‘Partner’ Overseas to be Deemed ‘Spouse’ for Immigration Purposes

Penny Starr | March 18, 2016 | 11:00am EDT
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Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.)

(Penny Starr/ 


( – Representative Mike Honda (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) with added language that would allow homosexuals in the United States to petition to bring their “spouse” here from countries that do not allow same-sex marriage.

Even though the two persons are not legally married, the bill would allow the homosexual partner abroad to be labeled a “spouse” for immigration purposes to expedite the process. The bill defines the relationship as a “permanent partnership.”

At a press conference on Capitol Hill, asked Representative Honda how the bill provides a way to recognize as a “spouse” someone in another country, if the two partners, or couple are not married.

“That’s part of the process: If you are a citizen or green card holder you have that right to petition for your spouse,” Honda said. “That’s why we added this, so they can petition for these folks.”

“They’re not recognized [as spouses] in the other countries – we recognize them,” Honda said. “So it’s through our petition process that we make this possible.”

The RFA defines a “permanent partner” as an individual 18 years of age or older “in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment.”

“Permanent partnership” is defined as “the relationship that exists between two permanent partners.”

“In most of the world, same-sex permanent partners do not have access to marriage equality,” Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a statement distributed at the press conference.

“The Reuniting Families Act provides these loving, committed couples the ability to stay together just like every other immigrant family,” said Morris.

At the press conference Morris said that a transgender man from Egypt was given asylum in the United States but had to leave his “wife” behind six years ago.

“They would have been married years ago,” Morris said, and expressed his support for the bill that would recognize the woman as the transgender man’s wife and allow him to petition for her to join him in this country.

The press release explaining RFA states that it includes the United American Families Act, which “eliminates discrimination facing LGBT families. Citizens and legal permanent residents in binational same-sex relationships can sponsor their permanent partner for immigration to the U.S. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States. v. Windsor in 2013, this bill will provide relief for those whose permanent partner is from a country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

“It also ensures same-sex refugee partners are resettled together and asylum grantees can have their non-married partners ‘follow to join’ them in the U.S.

The permanent partner definition in this bill could also apply to other partnerships that may not be recognized by foreign governments, such as interfaith marriage.”

Other provisions in the bill call for reclassification of “spouses and minor children of green card holders as ‘immediate relatives,’” increases the per-country immigration limits from 7 percent to 15 percent of total admissions, and allows people “unlawfully present in the United States” to utilize the legal immigration system.

The RFA, which has not yet been assigned a number, would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act “to promote family unity and other purposes.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, there are 195 countries in the world. Among those, 22 allow same-sex marriage: Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Iceland, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, England and Wales, France, New Zealand, Uruguay, Luxembourg, Scotland, Finland, Ireland and the United States.

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