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Leahy files amendment to immigration bill to extend rights to binational, gay couples

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday filed an amendment to a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would extend immigration benefits to foreign-born, gay partners of American citizens.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

The amendment would enable married, bi-national same-sex couples to apply for a visa through the marriage-based green card application process.

While federal law doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, Leahy’s amendment would grant immigration benefits to partners in states where their marriages were legally performed.

“Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community, is the right thing to do,” said Leahy, in a statement on Tuesday. “I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.”

Leahy had previously withdrawn the measure after after the White House and other Democrats privately urged him to hold off under Republicans‘ threats to withdraw their support of the immigration bill over the gay rights issue.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — the most prominent Republican in the “Gang of Eight,” a group of senators who developed the bipartisan proposal — was among those who called Leahy’s amendments a poison pill that would destroy GOP support for the bill.

It’s unclear whether the Senate will vote on Leahy’s amendment, but observers say the proposal has virtually no chance of winning the 60 votes almost certainly needed to clear the 100-member chamber.

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