Same-Sex Couple Update

Immigration officials have granted a reprieve to a gay man from South Africa so that he can stay in Long Island and care for his spouse who is very sick. His name is Tim Smulian, 65, and was nearly forced to leave his seriously ill partner alone in the U.S. for six months because of restrictions on his tourist visa. He married New Yorker Edwin Blesch, 70, in South Africa in 1999, and while their union is recognized in the state of New York, it did not give the pair any federal immigration benefits. For more than a decade, the couple spent six months a year in South Africa and six months on Long Island, but Blesch, who is HIV positive, suffered several mini-strokes and other complications and can no longer travel. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) intervened in the case, and officials have granted Smulian a one-year reprieve so he can stay at Blesch’s bedside. “I am relieved to hear that Tim and Edwin are no longer living in fear of separation at a time when they need each other the most,” Gillibrand said, “loving committed couples deserve access to all the same immigration rights and protections as straight couples. I will continue to fight for LGBT immigrant families and push for reform that reunites families rather than tears them apart.” Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California sent a strong immigration reform message to Congress, urging it to allow U.S. citizens lawfully married to same-sex partners the opportunity for lawful immigrant status. As you may know, while this right is conferred to heterosexual couples without complications, immigrant visas for spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents continue to be limited to homosexual couples. It is time to put an end to having to provide this right to same-sex couples on a case-by-case basis, it should be a right afforded to all homosexual couples with as little complications as it is afforded to their heterosexual counterparts.

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