ReconcilingWorks Expresses Disappointment, Calls on ELCA to Support Protections for All Families
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation is deeply saddened to learn that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has failed to include the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) as part of proposed federal legislation for comprehensive immigration reform. UAFA would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide protections for same-gender couples and families by permitting permanent same-gender partners of United States citizens to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as opposite-sex spouses of citizens.
In light of this legislative set-back, ReconcilingWorks urges the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to contact President Obama and elected officials in Congress to support and to press for amendments that would include UAFA as a component of comprehensive immigration reform. ReconcilingWorks asks the ELCA to make it clear that its professed number-one priority for immigration reform -- family reunification -- applies to all families, not just some. 
About 40,000 bi-national, same-gender couples in the U.S. are unable to sponsor their foreign-born spouses and partners. About 35% of male bi-national couples and 39% of female bi-national couples are raising at least one minor-aged child. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would make it possible for 17,000 children to live together in the U.S. with their families. 
ReconcilingWorks Executive Director, Emily Eastwood, said, "The Uniting American Families Act is about keeping families together. No one should be forced to choose between family and home country. All families, no matter what the gender of the parents, should be united. It is troubling that, nearly four years since the passage of a social statement on sexuality asserting the ELCA's commitment to advocate for legal protections for same-gender couples and their families, the ELCA has still not brought the collective voice of the denomination to bear on this crucial aspect of immigration reform. I believe that keeping families together is something all of our consciences are bound to support."
Emily Eastwood added, "Thankfully, a number of synodical bishops and other church leaders have publicly supported UAFA.  We commend all those who have added their voice to the call for justice. But given the immigration bill going before Congress that protects some families but not others, we know the churchwide voice of the ELCA is needed, now more than ever."
This assembly season, ReconcilingWorks has sponsored a synodical memorial asking the Churchwide Assembly to support UAFA if Congress does not adopt it. So far, nine synod assemblies have passed the memorial, with about a dozen more synods still yet to consider it. With numerous synods calling for action, our intent is to bring the issue to the floor of the 2013 Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh in August.
What can members and friends of ReconcilingWorks in the ELCA do? Here are a few ideas:
- Contact your synodical bishop. Request that your bishop speak out (or continue to speak out) publicly on this issue.
- Contact your U.S. Senators and Representative and tell them not to abandon the most vulnerable members of our community. Ask them to sponsor and support amendments to include UAFA.
- Join ReconcilingWorks in praying for all bi-national LGBT people who are forced to live abroad, uprooting their children, disrupting their careers, and breaking ties with their families, communities, and places of worship.
 See the ELCA's social message on Immigration, approved by the Board of the Division for Church in Society and adopted by the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1998.
 For U.S. demographic information based on an analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, see http://immigrationequality.org/2011/11/williams-institute-releases-new-data-on-lgbt-immigrant-families/
 For example, see the Faith Coalition for UAFA letter at http://immigrationequalityactionfund.org/images/FaithCoalition_SignOnLetter.pdf