Sunday, September 23, 2012

Collins Becomes 1st Republican UAFA Co-Sponsor

The Uniting All Families Act (UAFA) is important federal legislation (S. 821/H.R. 1537) which, if enacted, would allow LGBT  Americans in same-sex bi-national relationships to sponsor their foreign partner to receive permanent residency in the United States based on the relationship to a United States citizen or permanent resident. The activist group Immigration Equality estimates there are 36,000 same-sex binational couples who currently live in the United States. (As usual, it should be noted that I continue to serve on the board of directors of both Immigration Equality and Immigration Equality Action Fund).

UAFA has slowly been increasing the number of Congressional co-sponsors with 142 in the House and 28 in the Senate the most ever. This week the bill picked up its first Republican co-sponsor in Congress, Susan Collins of Maine. Amazingly, the bill (H.R. 1537) has no Republican co-sponsor in the U.S. House of Representatives, not even Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who has endorsed marriage equality and has co-sponsored the DOMA-repeal bill, the Respect for Marriage Act. I guess there is something about the intersection of LGBT rights and immigration, two issues which the Republican party has identified itself recently in opposition to, that makes it doubly difficult to enact any forward progress in what is now a xenophobic and homophobic party.

Log Cabin Republicans sent out a press release trumpeting Collins' action:

“This legislation would simply update our nation’s immigration laws to treat bi-national couples equally,” Senator Susan Collins said. “More than two dozen countries recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes. This important civil rights legislation would help prevent committed, loving families from being forced to choose between leaving their family or leaving their country.”

“Log Cabin Republicans are grateful to Senator Collins for continuing to be the tip of the spear as a Republican fighting for LGBT families. The Uniting American Families Act is a vital piece of legislation for many in our community who for too long have been forced to choose between their love of country, and the loves of their lives,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper. “With no ability to sponsor their partners, Americans are being forced abroad, taking their tax base, their talent, and enterprise to the more than 25 countries that offer residency for lesbian and gay partners. The Uniting American Families Act would allow Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for residency, benefiting both these American citizens and the companies which employ them. Log Cabin is proud to support the Uniting American Families Act, and we are committed to continuing our partnership with our allies at Immigration Equality to send Senator Collins the reinforcements she needs to make this bill a reality.”

One should note that this now means that of the 170 Congressional sponsors of the legislation, there is exactly one Republican. This is an indication of the ratio of positive actions towards LGBT equality by Democrats as opposed to positive actions by Republicans, which is precisely part of what Barney Frank was trying to say when he excoriated the Log Cabin Republicans  a few weeks ago.

Of course it is impossible to enact UAFA without Republican support in both the House and Senate since Republicans control one body and have enough members to stop any action in the other. But it is also true that if there were fewer Republicans in Congress, the chances of UAFA becoming law would increase not decrease. So, since Log Cabin Republicans exist to support Republicans, it is really not clear that they are actually increasing the likelihood of future LGBT legislative victories. However, since it is unlikely the Republican party is going to disappear any time soon(or that Democrats will have unfettered control of Congress), it is better that Log Cabin exists and works with Republicans than having them not exist. (So this is where I disagree with Barney Frank).

What do you think (about the existential question regarding gay Republicans)?

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