Will Immigration Reform Include Provisions for Gay Couples?
Comprehensive immigration reform already stands on shaky ground, but what would happen if a reform bill included a provision that granted gays and lesbians the right to petition for their partners to gain legal status?
Although some proponents of reform argue it is an issue of equality, others — particularly in the evangelical community — say it would kill reform efforts altogether, The Washington Post reported today:
“It introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise,” said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House bill aimed at reuniting families made it “impossible” for the group to support the measure. “Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.” [...]
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a 16-million-strong group of evangelical Latinos that could play a key political role in an immigration overhaul, is similarly opposed to including provisions for gay and lesbian families. The president of the organization, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, said that including such a measure would prove to be the “death knell” for comprehensive change. [...]
Rodriguez rejected the argument that opposing gay marriage provisions in an immigration overhaul constituted homophobia. Rather, he said, the choice was between excluding gay and lesbian families from an overhaul of immigration laws – or losing out on an overhaul altogether.
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Such a provision would make a big impact for some of the 24,000 gay and lesbian couples in the U.S. that include at least one foreign partner, the Post reported. They currently cannot petition for legal status for their partners — even if they are legally married in their state — because the federal government does not recognize gay marriage.
Still, some key figures support the inclusion of a provision for same sex couples. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill last year that would allow gays and lesbians to petition for legal status for foreign partners.
Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) are pushing a similar bill in the House, which they hope will become part of larger overhaul of the immigration system. Politico reported in July that the representatives believe it could boost the odds for comprehensive immigration reform by looping in gay rights supporters — a somewhat confusing argument, given that many liberals already support reforming the immigration system.
Gutierrez is a vocal supporter of immigration reform, but so far seems unwilling to break it into smaller chunks, arguing provisions like the DREAM Act and same sex rights are a necessary part of the package.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Gutierrez told Politico of his support for a provision for gay rights in an immigration bill. “Families should be included, and as we move forward, that should be our guiding principle for comprehensive immigration reform. To use the old adage, the tent is big enough.”