WASHINGTON — Republicans in the U.S. Senate are warning that efforts to include an amendment that offers a path to legal residency for foreign-born partners of gay Americans would derail an immigration package currently being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the leading sponsors of the immigration reform bill, said earlier this week that “the gay rights push threatens the immigration deal,” and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told The New York Times the provision was a “deal-breaker for most Republicans.”
“This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is,” Rubio said. “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.”
LGBT advocacy groups are pushing for inclusion of language from the proposed Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) as an amendment to the legislation being considered for immigration reform.
“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,” said Amos Lim, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Out4Immigration.
“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,” Lim told LGBTQ Nation.
Similar sentiments were expressed Thursday in joint statement from a coalition of advocacy groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream:
“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 said, in a statement.
“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.”
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he intends to put forward an amendment next week to permit foreign-born partners of gay Americans to apply for green cards, according to Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, and advocacy group that promotes LGBT equality in immigration laws.
A Senate source confirmed to LGBTQ Nation Thursday that Leahy believes that same-sex bi-national couples and families should be included as part of the overall immigration reform bill package, but would not say whether or not Leahy would offer up an amendment. Leahy told Politico earlier this week that an amendment is “not going to kill the bill.”
GOP sources in the Senate 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.
Article continues belowSenate 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.
The GOP says that won’t happen should same-sex relationships are included in the final version.
Inclusion of same-sex bi-national couples in immigration reform has been of paramount concern to the Obama administration.
Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that Obama has remained in contact with key proponents of the 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 said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits that go to other married people.
Legal analysts widely expect a majority on the high court will rule DOMA to be unconstitutional. If that happens, many interpret that legally married LGBT couples would be able to petition for green cards the same as any other married couple.