Helping International LGBT Families Stay Together

Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims in Congress, has cosponsored a bill with Rep. Betty Collum that will help bi-national same-sex couples keep their families together. The bill, which Rep. Jerrold Nadler has been pushing since 2003, is called the Uniting American Families Act, and would allow non-citizen partners of gays and lesbians to gain permanent resident status via the same channels that married couples use. If passed, this bill would obviously bring the U.S. a step closer in LGBT rights.

My interest in the bill lies particularly in Rep. Ellison’s involvement. Ellison was Congress’ first Muslim, and is still very active in his local Muslim communities. His involvement in the bill is interesting because the mainstream consensus on homosexuality in Islam is that it is not permissible. Thus, his support for the bill may be off-putting to some in American Muslim communities. But it may give hope to LGBT Muslim communities in America that their sexual orientation is recognized as a part of an acceptable family unit, if not in Islamic law, then in U.S. law.

If Ellison does believe that homosexuality is not permissible, he has put his personal beliefs about the LGBT community aside in order to help them keep their families together. Since Islam puts a heavy emphasis on family and community, I’d say that Ellison’s support of the bill is right on target with Islamic beliefs, despite the idea that he’s not supporting “traditional” family structures.

Ellison’s support also proves that, despite what FOX news may have us believe, a Muslim legislator does not automatically equal a Shari’ah crusader hell-bent on bringing stoning into American law.

The bill sends a message to those in LGBT communities (including LGBT Muslim communities) that their non-citizen partners are welcome in the U.S. And when a Muslim representative sponsors a bill to allow gay and lesbian immigrants to stay in the U.S. with their families (I can almost hear conservative heads exploding), it sends a message that America truly has what it takes to be the egalitarian democracy it aims to be.

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