Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) cited his own relationship with a Panamanian man at a Senate Judiciary Comittee hearing on immigration to argue for including LGBT protections in a bill.
"I know, as the partner of an immigrant how difficult it can be to build a life and protect the system under the current system," he said. "While this is an excellent starting point, I submit to you it is still incomplete. Families like mine are left behind as part of the proposal."
Immigrant and gay rights groups were disappointed last week when the "Gang of 8's" bipartisan immigration bill did not include measures allowing Americans to bring same-sex partners or spouses from abroad on family visas. Because of the Defense Of Marriage Act, now under review by the Supreme Court, the federal government is barred from recognizing gay marriages for immigration purposes, forcing many families into effective exile abroad.
"My partner was born in Panama and came to the United States on a scholarship to pursue [a graduate degree] in special education," Kolbe, who was outed in 1996 after voting in favor of DOMA, said. "He has been a dedicated teacher for almost two decades. He was...was forced to turn to Panama when his visa expired. The separation was painful."
Kolbe said that he and his partner were planning to get married next month in the District of Columbia after he finally obtained a visa through a long and expensive process.