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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 14, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 24
Another try on immigration - Sen. Leahy reintroduces same-sex couples amendment to reform bill
Section One
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Another try on immigration - Sen. Leahy reintroduces same-sex couples amendment to reform bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Shortly after the U.S. Senate voted to open debate on the so-called Gang of Eight immigration reform bill on June 11, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced his amendment to allow Gay and Lesbian citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for permanent residency.

'Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do,' Leahy said in a statement.

'I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.'

Leahy, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had jurisdiction over the immigration measure, put his amendment up for debate in his committee, but withdrew it without a vote when other senators objected that the immigration bill would never get to the Senate floor for debate if the amendment were attached.

The bill was approved for debate by a comfortable 82-to-15 margin, with even most Republican opponents of immigration reform agreeing to allow the issue to come to the floor.

A HIGH BAR TO CLEAR
It is not clear if Leahy's amendment will even be brought up for debate, much less be added to the underlying immigration bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have not yet agreed on how to handle the multiple amendments introduced by senators of both parties.

Unless Reid and McConnell agree to move it forward, Leahy's amendment will require at least 60 votes to be brought up for debate, and it appears unlikely to get that number.

The Gang of Eight bill would allow most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship provided they learn English, pass a criminal background check, and pay a $2,000 fine for entering the country illegally.

Currently, opposite-sex spouses of U.S. citizens get priority for permanent resident 'green cards' and eventual citizenship. Leahy's amendment would allow the same opportunity to same-sex partners of U.S. citizens.

LEAHY DRAWS PRAISE
In a statement, DOMA Project founder Lavi Soloway said Leahy's amendment would help keep Gay and Lesbian families together.

'With this bold move, Senator Leahy has carved out an exception to the Defense of Marriage Act for Lesbian and Gay binational couples that will provide access to existing marriage-related family unification provisions of our immigration law,' Soloway said.

'The Leahy amendment does not actually amend any current provision of our immigration law, but simply removes the extrinsic barrier caused by DOMA that prevents Lesbian and Gay Americans from filing petitions for their spouses, fiancé(e)s, and stepchildren. The implication of Senator Leahy's focus on equality is that LGBT families are no different than any other American families comprised of citizens and noncitizens. We must have access to the same immigration law protections that ensure that no family is torn apart. No 'band-aid' solution will ever make us equal.'

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