Thursday, May 2, 2013


Immigration Reform Measure Under Fire From Senate Republicans And LGBT Activist Groups Over Same-Sex Bi-National Couples

By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans are warning that efforts to include an amendment that offers a path to legal residency for foreign partners of gay American citizens would derail the larger legislation package currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio, one of the leading sponsors of the immigration reform bill package said earlier this week,
“The Gay rights push threatens the immigration deal. This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is,” Rubio said adding, “I respect everyone’s views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.” 
Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality-which promotes equality in immigration laws for LGBT persons- said that Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, intended to put forward an amendment Tuesday which would permit foreign-born partners in committed same-sex relationships with Americans to apply for green cards.
A spokesperson for the Senator Thursday refused to comment on or confirm Ralls' statement when contacted by LGBTQ Nation.
LGBT Equality Groups are pushing for inclusion of language from the proposed Uniting American Families Act as an amendment to the legislation being considered for immigration reform.
In an e-mail statement to LGBTQ Nation, Amos Lim, spokesperson for Out4Immigration said:
"Current immigration law as it exists does not allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign spouse for a green card like heterosexual couples can. 
Same-sex bi-national couples have once again been ignored by Congress. The Senate has called the bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, but their compromise excluded same-sex bi-national couples, forcing us to choose between our families and our country in order to stay together. 
We will continue to push for the inclusion of LGBT Families in this bill as it moves through the amendment and voting process in Congress. We will not give up the fight until LGBT Families and same-sex bi-national couples are included in immigration reform!"
Similar sentiments were expressed Thursday in joint statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project;
“We do not believe that our friends in the evangelical faith community or conservative Republicans would allow the entire immigration reform bill to fail simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex couples equal immigration rights,” the organizations state. “This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex bi-national couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.”
A Senate source confirmed to LGBTQ Nation Thursday that Leahy believes that same-sex bi-national couples and families need to be included as part of the overall immigration reform bill package but would not say whether or not the Senator would offer up an amendment in that regard by the first deadline of next Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Senate Republican sources say that inclusion of amendment language codifying efforts to include same-sex relationships would destroy the bipartisan coalition and prevent the measure from receiving the 60 votes needed to pass on the Senate floor.
Senate Democrats have 10-8 majority on the Judiciary Committee, and can approve changes along majority party lines however, any amendments that are problematic will almost certainly be required to garner a 60-vote super majority that the GOP is saying won't happen should same-sex equality rights be included in the final version.
Provisions for inclusion as part of the larger effort of same-sex bi-national couples are also of paramount concern to the Obama administration. Talking with reporters aboard Air Force One enroute to a presidential visit to Mexico Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president has remained in contact with the key proponents of the comprehensive immigration reform package.
“The legislation crafted by the ‘Gang of Eight’ broadly reflects the principles that the president has laid out, but it is not word for word in keeping with all of what he would do if he were to write it himself,” Carney told reporters adding, 
“And we have said that we support that provision, but we also think it’s very important to recognize that the overall bill here accomplishes what the president believes needs to be accomplished and is in keeping with his principles.”