Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Could Harm Immigration Bill

Friday, 19 Apr 2013 10:06 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Gay-rights activists are concerned the Senate's immigration reform proposal does not provide a path to citizenship for foreign-born partners of gay Americans, but changing the bill could jeopardize its future.

Same-sex marriages and civil unions are not recognized by the federal government, so the unions of an estimated 36,000 couples will not be considered legal under bill unless U.S. laws are changed – or the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, Politico reported Friday.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has made gay marriage rights a top priority in recent years, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists expect him or Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin to introduce an amendment to the bill to address the issue.

But that could cause a split among the so-called Gang of Eight senators who wrote the bipartisan measure.

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“Such an amendment would be a poison pill to several senators in the group, who, with Sen. [Chuck] Schumer’s blessing, agreed as a group to not include the contentious issue,” a Republican Senate aide said. “If Sen. Leahy insists on including such a contentious provision in the legislation, it will seriously jeopardize the prospects of immigration reform passing this year.”

Gang of Eight member Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has already warned that an immigration overhaul that specifically addresses same-sex couples would fail. Further, Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, also one of the bill's authors, has reportedly said that adding language on homosexual unions to the measure “is the best way to beat it.”

Some Hispanic advocates say they are willing to let the same-sex marriage issue go for the sake of the bill.

“Failure to include [gay couples] wouldn’t be a basis to oppose the entire bill, especially because there are so many other proposals that are benefits to LGBT immigrants,” said Keren Zwick, supervisor of the National Immigrant Justice Center's LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative.

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