Schumer, Senate Democrats Under Pressure on Gay-Inclusive Immigration Reform

(chris johnson – twitter)

Senate Democrats are increasingly nervous about the prospects of gay-inclusive amendments filed last week by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) killing the comprehensive immigration reform bill, Politico reports:

After strategically keeping the White House at a distance, some key Democrats are privately advocating for the president himself to ask Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chief proponent of the measure, to hold off on offering the amendment until the floor debate, where it’s unlikely to pass.

“He is working behind the scenes,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a Gang of Eight member, told POLITICO when asked whether Democrats wanted Obama to get involved, although declined to get into details. “Obviously it is Sen. Leahy’s call.”

Leahy said he spoke with Obama on Wednesday, but the issue didn’t come up. Even if it did, Leahy said, a presidential intervention wouldn’t necessarily sway him.

“I am the most senior member of the Senate, I’m an experienced chairman. He’s happy I’m handling immigration,” Leahy said. “He hasn’t suggested whether I should or shouldn’t do it because he knows I’ll make up my own mind.”

It's also still unclear whether Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would vote for the amendments, they add:

After the Gang of Eight didn’t include the protections in the underlying bill, Schumer assured advocates that the issue would get a vote in the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee, the most favorable venue for passing the amendment because the threshold is a simple majority, rather than the filibuster-proof majority on the Senate floor.

But now [LGBT advocates] are worried that might not even happen.

2_schumerEarlier, today, Schumer received, via hand delivery from the advocacy group GetEQUAL in coordination with the pro-immigrant organizations, DRM Action and Uniting We Dream, 6,500 petitions urging him to include gay binational couples as part of the legislation.

Reports Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEQUAL, personally handed the names to Schumer’s staff on Thursday as part of a group of about a half-dozen activists.

“It’s interesting because he’s making a political mistake,” Sousa-Rodriguez told the Blade. “The whole reason why this is even happening is because of Latinos, and Latinos hold the key to the White House. But 64 percent of voters support the inclusion of same-sex couples in immigration reform and 59 percent of Latino voters support same-sex marriage. Latinos have turned a page, the country has turned a page, but D.C. keeps being stuck in the ’90s.”

A Brazilian native who’s married to a U.S. citizen, Sousa-Rodriguez is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States at a young age and would be able to gain citizenship through a marriage-based green card application if the immigration reform included the provision for bi-national couples.

More at the Blade


  1. will says

    Don’t kill the bill! If gay inclusion is gonna kill this legislation, jettison the gay inclusion. Yes, I know, I’m “SELF-LOATHING” because I put the interests of the immigrants before my own agenda. Whatever. But if we HAVE TO compromise with the GOP and Tea Party to get a bill passed at all and they say they’ll kill any bill with gay inclusiveness, jettison the inclusiveness but GET A BILL. This has taken decades. Our time will come.

  2. MiddleoftheRoader says

    There are 2 Leahy amendments. One would make it clear that “married” same-sex spouses, just like “married” opposite-sex spouses, would be eligible for green cards, etc. There is absolutely no way that the Dems should distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages — marriage is marriage.

    The other Leahy amendment would allow “partners” to be eligible. Although it would be fair to allow “partners” because many countries don’t allow same sex partners to get married, the fact is that there is not now and there has never been an exception to allow “partners” into the country (and some countries do have “partnerships” for opposite-sex couples in addition to “marriage” for opposite sex couples). So the Dems could vote against Leahy’s “Partner” amendment because it would add something totally new to the law.

    But for the Dems to abandon “same-sex” married spouses, that could even embolden the Supreme Court to uphold DOMA. After all, it Congress can still refuses to recognize same-sex spouses for immigration purporses, then Justice Kennedy might ask why should the Supreme Court stick its neck out?

  3. LetSodomRing says

    Let the Republicans have their temporary victory on this one. The Supreme Court is going to strike down Section 3 of DOMA next month, likely before this bill even passes, making a specific provision for same-sex spouses irrelevant.

  4. gayalltheway says

    When SCOTUS strikes down DOMA next month, this issue will become moot for us (I’m being reasonably and cautiously optimistic). Why the persistence in trying to include LGBT-related provisions in this reform to the point of jeopardizing the entire effort? With DOMA gone, gay and lesbian US citizens would be able to petition for permanent residency for their same-sex foreign partners/spouses. Isn’t this what we are fighting for? The UAFA is, in a way, flawed because it creates a special privilege for LGBT US citizens to sponsor their permanent partners without being or getting married. Straight binational couples are not allowed to do this and for good reasons; the main being immigration fraud. Yes, marriage equality is not (yet) legal in the entire country but it’s only a matter of time and LGBT couples in the US can already get married in one of the 12 states, albeit at the state level.

    Sen. Schumer has been a strong ally for the UAFA and equality for LGBTs in general and I really don’t understand why people are attacking him and claiming that he is not supportive of Sen. Leahy’s call for the UAFA to be included in the reform bill. I think these people need to reevaluate the situation and focus their effort to continue changing public opinion on marriage equality instead.

    This reform is certainly much bigger than just for LGBT families. Many people will benefit from the passage of the bill and for us to demand that our families be included even though it might jeopardize the success of the bill, in my opinion, is selfish because of DOMA’s inevitable demise.

  5. sundayboy says

    Schumer’s interns have arrived to scold us for being so ‘selfish’ as to want the equality we have worked decades for.

    Yeah, how lousy of us.

    I don’t believe that DOMA will necessarily be struck, and where will that leave us?

    If Sen. Schumer has been a strong ally for the UAFA and equality for LGBTs in general the why is UAFA not in the bill?

    These people make no sense. They know they make no sense.

  6. Francis #1 says

    People in the LGBTQ community are relying very very hard on SCOTUS to eliminate Section 3 and eliminate Prop 8 in a broad way. And to say it’s only a matter of time before marriage equality is nationally recognized is incredibly far off the mark. The truth is, we’re going to be stuck at about 18 in the near future, and that’s if Iowa doesn’t turn completely Republican which could result in a potential loss of marriage rights there.

    The message being sent is pretty simple—gay people, we Congress don’t want to touch your issues. We’re ignoring you. You’re not a priority to us. You’re second class. MiddleoftheRoader is very right in his assessment regarding a potential mentality that the conservative justices (and the one to look for in particular, Justice Kennedy) could very well have. If Congress doesn’t want to touch our issues, why would/should SCOTUS issue any such ruling that ends up legalizing marriage equality nationwide, or eliminates DOMA completely, a law Congress themselves passed and the WH continues to uphold.

    SCOTUS probably won’t uphold DOMA but that doesn’t mean they’re going to issue a ruling that ends up eliminating Section 3 altogether, either. No-one knows what is going to happen. If anything the statements SCOTUS justices have made regarding Roe vs Wade and that decision makes it less likely they’re going to issue a broad ruling on anything in June. Then what happens? We’re stuck playing the litigation game. We’re stuck with a Congress that has made it clear we’re not important to them. We’re stuck with inequality.

  7. Jack says

    Sorry, but Chuck Schumer was a late-comer on ending DADT. He has always been reluctant to push any LGBT legislation in the Senate. He is constantly bending over backwards so as not to offend the most right-wing of bigots on the other side of the Aisle. I would love to see Chuck get challenged in a Primary and have a real ally in the Senate in his place.

  8. says

    My Senator, Senator Leahy–whatever the ultimate fate of the amendments–should be commended for standing up for binational couples and for articulating the inequality inherent in the immigration process as long as same-sex couples are treated differently than heterosexual couples. If we don’t support him on this, why should he support us? It’s not compromise when you call defeat before ANYTHING has happened.

    There is no reason why we should take ourselves out of the process to appease the right and cowardly Democrats. Schumer has not been an advocate on this. And, if the bill gets killed because of a fair amendment, that failure is on the killers of it, not on us.

  9. Patric says

    I’m with Jack, Ernie and sundayboy insofar as Schumer is concerned. I’m a New York voter and I’ve never voted for him (I haven’t voted for his Repug opponents either though I thought that Schumer was no more deserving than D’Amato, of whom I am not a fan, of the endorsements of LGBT orgs in 1998). I too would love to see him toppled in a primary but it won’t happen. He’s got a reliable base and is always well-funded and unfortunately he’s not going anywhere.

    His vote for DOMA was easily one of the least excusable of any Dem in 1996. Whereas you could at least see the political calculus behind the decisions taken by Dems like Clinton and certain Senators (not that I’m defending their decisions), Schumer had little to lose in standing with us (unless, as perhaps was the case, he saw his base in the contested primary for the 1998 Dem nomination for the Senate seat to be a culturally conservative corner of the Dem electorate). In my view, Senator Gillibrand is the only U.S. Senator from New York over the last decade who has really stood up for our community.

  10. jamal49 says

    It’s good to see people are keeping Schumer’s feet to the fire on this. He’s my Senator but I didn’t vote for him last time because he’s a two-faced, double-talking, back-stabbing louse who’s never met a wealthy, campaign donor he didn’t like. Schumer dragged his feet on financial reform all across the board because he’s a suck-up to Wall Street.

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