Nel's New Day

June 3, 2013

Senators Fail to Support Same-Sex Couples

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:10 PM
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Conservatives are always bragging about their “family values,” but they’re very selective about who they consider families. Some liberals, too, are willing to follow the conservatives view of “traditional families” if it serves their own ends. A prime example of this is the proposed immigration reform balloon, currently in a fragile state, that dumped LGBT families off as ballast to encourage the bill to rise.

Amidst the over 300 amendments proposed to the Judiciary Committee for the immigration reform bill last month—many of them designed to stop the act in its tracks—was one from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) that would allow U.S. citizens to seek permanent resident status, a so-called “green card,” for a foreign same-sex partner. Conservatives so viciously threatened to scuttle the entire bill if that amendment were included that several Democrats on the committee refused to support support Leahy’s amendment.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voiced the conservatives’ relief: “To try to redefine marriage within the immigration bill would mean the bill would fall apart.” Support from evangelical churches would have, according to Graham, “made it possible for a guy like me to survive the emotional nature of this debate.” (Whatever that means.)

What gives LGBT groups stature in this conflict is that they continue to support the reform despite the fact that they are left out in the cold. Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of Get Equal, said, “I can’t deny my outrage when I felt betrayed.” But he is ready to push for the bill in the Senate, scheduled next week.

Born in Brazil, Sousa-Rodriguez is one of the 1.7 million young immigrants brought here illegally as children who will have an accelerated five-year path to citizenship if the bill passes. If the Senate bill were to have the green cards for LGBT spouses, Sousa-Rodriguez could have immediate eligibility because he is legally married to Juan, an immigrant from Colombia who is about to become an American citizen.

Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “I am deeply disappointed that binational couples were not included, and we will continue to push for that. But we will remain in this fight.” Activists have estimated that at least 267,000 illegal immigrants are LGBT.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality provided this announcement documenting their continued support for immigration reform:

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to passing compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.

“We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights. At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, believe that all consenting adults should have the right to get married and that gender should not play a role in who is considered family.

“It is unconscionable that lawmakers committed to equality and commonsense, humane immigration policy were forced to make a false choice between protecting the rights of same-sex binational couples and keeping a tenuous coalition together. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.

“Beyond the issue of same-sex binational couples, the bill addresses many issues that will particularly benefit LGBT people, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, providing protections for DREAMers and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities. These include important protections limiting the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on a detainee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We will continue to work to improve the legislation as we fight for its passage because this bill is a historic step forward for all immigrants and the LGBT community.

“Our primary goal is to pass a commonsense, compassionate immigration reform bill that puts our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship.

“We desperately need to reform our broken immigration system immediately because it dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants. We will continue to advocate and support changes to the bill that will create the most accessible pathway to citizenship possible and allow all undocumented immigrants the opportunity to become citizens, and we will continue to ardently oppose draconian amendments that would make immigrants permanent second-class citizens and create undue hardships along a pathway to citizenship.

“Every day we fail to reform our system, 1,100 families are torn apart. As a nation, we pride ourselves on keeping families united, and our immigration policies should reflect our commitment to keep families together all families.”

Sharon Stapel, the executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, wrote in defense of green cards for same-sex couples:

“With immigration reform, Congress has the opportunity to affirm the principle that they cannot leave any family behind. However, right now, the immigration reform bill fails to affirm that principle: the current proposal is not truly ‘comprehensive’ because it leaves LGBT families behind.

“Families who cannot sponsor their partners and spouses for immigration risk a future of uncertainly, separation and exile–and LGBT people should have the same protection against this insecurity as every other family protected by the reform bill.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer  (D-NW), one of the eight senators who wrote the legislation, has promised to build support among Republicans so the amendment could be added during the floor debate. Evangelical Christian and Catholic leaders have promised to oppose any same-sex issues in the immigration overhaul.

Anyone watching the high level of dysfunction existing in the Senate at this time knows that an amendment supporting same-sex couples cannot pass that chamber. It takes only one senator to keep the amendment—in fact, the entire immigration bill— from a vote.

Reflecting on the lack of legislative support, Richard J. Rosendall wrote that the LGBT community needs “well-placed allies”:

“Leaders in several sports are making strides to ensure a greater welcome for gay and lesbian athletes. Employers increasingly make the case for pro-LGBT policies. Sri Srinivasan, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 23 to become the nation’s first circuit court judge of South Asian descent. He assisted in arguing for the United States before the Supreme Court in the Windsor case on March 27. Former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who has worked with him in both public and private law practice, notes his ‘extraordinary personal touch.’ His mixture of brilliance and warmth gives Srinivasan rare across-the-aisle appeal. He is widely touted as one of the top choices to fill the next vacancy on the high court. The need for friends in high places is all too evident as we await the decisions in Windsor and Perry.”

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents United States citizens from petitioning for their foreign same-sex partners even if they are legally married  in a jurisdiction permitting marriage equality. Either same-sex couples live apart and travel to see one another or one of them stays in the United States without legal status.

At this time, the Supreme Court could change DOMA if it were to override the law blocking marriage equality. The court’s decision regarding marriage equality in specific situations will be made later this month, but there is very little likelihood that they will decide to make marriage equality the law of the land.

Despite the ignorant exclusion of same-sex couples from the proposed immigration reform—the arrogant assumption that LGBT spouses are not family–the LGBT community shows its support for its larger family of those who will benefit from an immigration reform bill. Despite the sadness and loss of those who suffer because they must be separated from the ones they love, the LGBT community supports the family of humanity.

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