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May 27 2013

No LGBT Protections in Immigration Bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy on Wednesday withdrew an amendment he proposed to the comprehensive immigration reform bill being marked up in the Senate that would have afforded married gay couples the same immigration status rights as straight married couples. He did so because Republicans threatened to blow the whole thing up if they dared to treat gay people as actual human beings with equal rights.

Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, 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 members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators about why they didn’t include protections for gay couples in the initial bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham went first, saying he opposed the inclusion of gay couples’ protections in the bill, despite noting his respect for Leahy’s “passion” is support of marriage equality.

“If you redefine marriage for immigration purposes [by the amendment], the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart,” Graham said. “It would be a bridge too far.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Graham’s comments, then, saying of Leahy’s amendment, “I think this sounds like the fairest approach, but here’s the problem … we know this is going to blow the agreement apart. I don’t want to blow this bill apart.”

So they were able to continue to enshrine discrimination in the law merely by threatening to kill a much larger bill. They say politics is the art of the possible; in this case, it’s the art of the despicable.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    [Sen. Pat Leahy] did so [withdrew amendment extending protections to GLBT immigrants and their families] because Republicans threatened to blow the whole thing up if they dared to treat gay people as actual human beings with equal rights.

    Ed concludes:

    They say politics is the art of the possible; in this case, it’s the art of the despicable.

    Ed, what do you think a Senator should do in this case? I ask because I’m not sure if your laudable condemnation of Republicans also extends to Sen. Leahy. I think Sen. Leahy is prudently acting out within the art of the possible, a textbook example. The only possible criticism I can think of is trivial; perhaps the tactical timing of his retreat.

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    “He did so because Republicans threatened to blow the whole thing up if they dared to treat gay people as actual human beings with equal rights.”

    To be fair, eventually they’ll vote against the bill anyway, no matter what’s in it.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    @Modus: Exactly. If they don’t get to expose their bigotry against gays, they’ll vote against it because of bigotry against Latinos.

  4. 4
    abb3w

    Eh. Half a loaf is sometimes better than none.

    Getting the immigration thing settled seems a higher priority. Young people show no sign of getting more homophobic any time soon (and in fact the trend is the opposite direction), but my impression from anecdata is that ethnic immigrants tend to turn nativist pretty damn fast.

    Get immigration done. Then, the anti-gay discrimination in it can be just one more element struck down when DOMA gets reversed by the legislature.

  5. 5
    Eric Ressner

    Could this be part of the thinking on the Dem side?

    If (When) the Supreme Court overturns DOMA, with the reluctant collusion of one or two of the flying-in-circles wing, exclusion of gay-marrieds would be unconstitutional. Yes? No?

  6. 6
    marcus

    I’ with abb3w @ 4.
    While I find Leahy’s actions laudable and proper, I do think that we must deal with the abomination that is DOMA first. After DOMA is either declared unconstitutional or repealed the immigration part will be more easily dealt with. If it is repealed then the immigration aspect should be included in the legislation. If it is declared unconstitutional then acceptance of legal marriages from everywhere else should be automatic.

  7. 7
    wpjoe

    @2 “To be fair, eventually they’ll vote against the bill anyway, no matter what’s in it.”
    Can it pass the house? If the “path to citizenship” is so onerous that no one will follow it or the “secure the border first” requirements are impossible to actually meet, then they might pass it.

  8. 8
    dustbunny

    Damn. One of my friends in Holland just got a Green Card and he can’t bring his husband over too.

    But yes, Eric Ressner, I think that SCOTUS could make this whole problem go away when they rule on DOMA. Except if they do one of those “we overturn it, but….” things they’re so good at.

  9. 9
    Modusoperandi

    wpjoe “@2 Can it pass the house? If the ‘path to citizenship’ is so onerous that no one will follow it or the ‘secure the border first’ requirements are impossible to actually meet, then they might pass it.”
    I doubt it. Sure, they’ll “negotiate” and “compromise” and “reach across the aisle”, but well poisoning is just a delaying tactic, like happened during the Obamacare debate (which, aside from a smattering of “not voting”, they all voted against in the end). The major difference between that and this is they actually have the votes to stop it cold in the House now (and their Senate position is stronger, too).
    Admittedly, there are open questions, as in “Will Boehner break the Hastert rule if he thinks the bill will pass?” (and “Does Boehner even want it to pass?”), and a wild card in that some of them are “reaching out” to court the Hispanic demographic. Whether that attempt is in good (if self-centered) faith remains to be seen, however.

  10. 10
    lancifer

    Oh for chrissakes Ed,

    Did you want any hope of sensible immigration reform to be scuttled for the purpose of posturing for gay marriage rights? Why not go down to your local city council and demand that the trash pick up ordinance include provisions for the pick up of the trash of gay spouses?

    As has been said by several posters, the repeal of DOMA is the proper venue for that issue. Going through the backdoor, forgive the metaphor, by tying the issue of same sex marriage rights onto a controversial immigration bill is unnecessarily provocative and shortsighted,

  11. 11
    wpjoe

    @9 If I read your analysis correctly, the whole immigration bill debate is only about votes in the next election. It’s a question of repubs balancing the short term goal of getting re-elected against the long term goal of having a party that can appeal to a majority of the demographically-changing public. They are afraid the base will primary them if they vote for it, but they also realize that eventually the party will have to change its position on brown people. Also they don’t want the president to have any legislative accomplishments. So probably they will bring it up for a vote, let those that might need the Hispanic support vote for it, and then come up with some death-panel type objection to Obama-gration that the party leaders can point to for why conservatives can’t support it.
    So you might as well have a marriage equality provision in the bill, since its going nowhere.

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