Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Same-Sex Couples Dropped From Immigration Reform Bill

There has been a pretty disturbing development in Washington late yesterday while I was out celebrating my birthday at the Aquarium restaurant in Point Salines, Grenada. Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) withdrew his amendment which would guarantee same-sex binational couples a right to stay together in the United States in the  comprehensive immigration reform bill the Senate Judiciary Committee was marking up. Basically, Leahy bent to political pressure fueled by homophobia from Republicans (and political cowardice from Democrats, most likely Senator Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer) to prevent the Uniting American Families Act from even getting a vote by the 20 member committee.

This is a huge loss for LGBT equality. President Obama issued a statement:

I applaud the Committee members for their hard work, especially “Gang of Eight” members Senators Schumer, Durbin, Graham and Flake. None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements
Hopefully there will be more details in the near future about exactly who threw same-sex binational couples under the bus in the pursuit of political expedience. 

This should serve as a chilling reminder of the virulence of the strain of homophobia in the GOP and also a key indicator of the political power of the LGBT community. It is absolutely false that this bill was about recognizing same-sex marriage, it was about providing LGB Americans the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to keep the person that they love ( who happens to be a foreign national) in the United States, regardless of the state where they reside and the status of marriage equality. 19 countries ( many of which do NOT have marriage equality) provide this option to their residents, the United States does not, and unless the Supreme Court negates the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), there will be NOTHING to help same-sex binational couples in federal law resolve their plight.

That being said, getting an immigration reform bill through the Senate is important, and the bill passed the committee 13-5 to the Senate floor. This issue can and should be revisited after June 27 when we know the status of DOMA.

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