Efforts to Include Gay Binational Couples in Immigration Reform Spurned by Senate Panel

Gay and lesbian binational couples have been thrown under the bus on immigration reform. Senator Patrick Leahy withdrew his amendment to the comprehensive bill, Buzzfeed reports:

LeahyA little past 7 p.m., Leahy said, “It is with a heavy heart … I will withhold the Leahy Amendment 7 at this point.”
Leahy offered the amendment a half-hour earlier, saying, “I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country.”

He added, “Discriminating against people based on who they love is a travesty,” noting that he wanted to hear from the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators about why they didn’t include protections for gay couples in the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham went first, saying he opposed the inclusion of gay couples’ protections in the bill.
“If you redefine marriage for immigration purposes [by the amendment], the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart,” he said. “It would be a bridge too far.”

More at Buzzfeed including Leahy's statemtn.

Other senators followed suit, saying the amendment would destroy the bill's chances.

SchumerSaid Senator Schumer, who had been under intense pressure from LGBT advocates this week and even called a meeting of them in his office:

"This is one of the most excruciating decisions I have had to make in my [time] in Congress. … Not to do this is rank discrimination….They’ve made it perfectly clear that if this provision is included … they will abandon [the bill.] … If we make the effort to add it to this bill, they will walk away. … The result, no equality, no immigration bill, everyone loses. … Much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill.’"

Said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality Action Fund, in a statement in response to the abandonment:

"Despite the leadership of Chairman Leahy, Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to bullying by their Republican colleagues. There should be shame on both sides of the political aisle today for lawmakers who worked to deny LGBT immigrant families a vote. Despite widespread support from business, labor, faith, Latino and Asian-American advocates, Senators abandoned LGBT families without a vote. From the beginning we told Senator Schumer that it would only get harder to add LGBT families to the bill. We are disappointed that Senator Schumer and his 'Gang of 8' colleagues accepted a false choice between LGBT families and immigration reform, when the truth is that including LGBT families from the outset would have strengthened the bill."

HRC's Chad Griffin released a statement as well:

"As we come together as a nation to tackle our broken immigration system, it is deplorable that a small number of Senators have been able to stand in the way of progress for lesbian and gay couples torn apart by discriminatory laws. Instead of working to achieve common-sense solutions, Senators Graham, Flake, McCain and Rubio threatened to derail the entire immigration bill to appease a small but vocal group of anti-gay social conservatives that will do anything to stop progress for lesbian and gay couples. We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people. We will continue to work hard to include bi-national same-sex couples as the bill moves to the floor and remain committed to the underlying principles of inclusive and comprehensive immigration reform. We owe it to the estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT adults and estimated 24,700 LGBT bi-national couples living in the U.S. today to get the job done."