May 22, 2013
By Scottie Thomaston
- The biggest news of the week is yesterday’s action in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where most Democrats joined all Republicans to oppose inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a compromise pro-LGBT bill that would have allowed binational married couples of the same sex to remain in the United States together, in the “comprehensive” immigration bill. Jacob covered it today, and linked to lots of commentary. Earlier this month, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway explained UAFA and the potential effects of an eventual repeal or court decision striking down DOMA. He pointed out that simply getting rid of DOMA would not fix the situation.
- LGBT activists react angrily to the lack of LGBT inclusion in immigration.
- What’s next in the marriage fight?
- A poll in Tennessee shows that 62 per cent of people in the state think gays and lesbians and their partners should get health and other work-related benefits, and also shows that 49 per cent support some sort of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
- Last week, President Obama gave a commencement address at Morehouse College that included pro-LGBT remarks. The video is here.
- Freedom to Work has filed a discrimination complaint against Exxon Mobil in Illinois.
May 22, 2013
In a stunning and disheartening defeat, Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee chose yesterday not to include protections for binational same-sex couples in the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently making its way through Congress.
Republicans on the committee had publicly and privately stated that including the measure, known as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), would force them to withhold their support from the entire bill. UAFA would have created a classification of ‘permanent partners’ through which U.S. citizens in binational same-sex relationships could sponsor their partners in immigration proceedings. A related amendment would have extended immigration protections to married same-sex couples in spite of the Defense of Marriage Act.
During yesterday’s committee markup, four crucial Democrats–all of whom support marriage equality, in theory–spoke of a difficult decision in withdrawing support for the amendment but defended the move in light of Republican threats. ”If we make the effort to make [the protections] part of this bill, they will walk away,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said during the hearing. “They’ve said it publicly. They’ve told me privately. I believe them.”
The other three Democrats on the committee who pulled their support of the amendment were Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who had introduced the UAFA amendment in the first place, was the only Democratic Senator who spoke in favor of the measure unreservedly. ”I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the life of their life and the love of their country,” he said when introducing the amendment, but later said he would withdraw it “with a heavy heart” given its lack of support in the chamber.
The committee eventually voted 13-5 to send the comprehensive immigration reform bill to the full Senate. The UAFA amendment could be considered by the full Senate in June when the immigration reform legislation comes up for a floor vote, although it would likely require 60 votes to pass, making its chances of success exceedingly slim. The measure could also be taken up as a stand-alone bill, but such a path would also be sure to falter in the face of a 60-vote threshold.
“Despite the leadership of Chairman Leahy, Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to bullying by their Republican colleagues,” Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality Action Fund, said in a statement after the vote. “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.”
LGBT immigration advocates pointed out yesterday as reports surfaced that the Leahy amendments might be tabled that they were essentially burned three times by Democratic Senators on the issue. ”It is important to note,” Immigration Equality’s Steve Ralls told Metro Weekly, “that, when the Senate immigration framework (which Schumer and Durbin helped write) did not include LGBT couples, both Senators assured our families they would be in the base bill. When the base bill (which they also helped write) was not inclusive, they assured us we would receive a vote in Committee.” Of course, no such committee vote ended up occurring.
The immigration protections debate underscores the vital importance of understanding that, while the LGBT community’s successes on the marriage equality front in the last few months have been remarkable, there are still many issues on which politicians still need to be pushed. Even though all four of the Democrats in question on the Judiciary Committee support marriage equality, that support did not carry over to support for same-sex couples’ rights when it comes to immigration. It’s worth asking these senators whether they support LGBT equality categorically, or in words only.
May 21, 2013
Illinois Unites For Marriage, the state coalition for the passage of the marriage equality law, said today that former President Bill Clinton is calling on state legislators to pass the bill before the Assembly adjourns on May 31. Clinton said in a statement:
“Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ – deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community,” said President Clinton. “That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in Illinois, with marriage equality.”
“Since the days of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois has stood for the proposition that all citizens should be treated equally under the law,” President Clinton said in Tuesday’s statement. “Lincoln himself came to Springfield in search of opportunity, and he dedicated his life to securing equal opportunity for all citizens. I believe that for Illinois and for our nation as a whole, in the 21st century that must include marriage equality.”
In recent weeks, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has reiterated his support for marriage equality, telling the state House to send the bill to his desk. And yesterday it was reported that LGBT leaders in the state have said they have obtained the votes required to pass the bill, and that there’s no reason it shouldn’t be voted on before the session ends.
Clinton has shifted his views on marriage equality over the years, and he wrote recently that the Supreme Court should rule that DOMA, which he signed in 1996, is unconstitutional. He had previously asked North Carolina’s voters to oppose Amendment 1, the anti-gay marriage ban that passed last year.
If the House passes the bill, Illinois will become the 13th state with marriage equality for same-sex couples. With only days left in the session, the vote would be expected soon, if it’s called.