LGBT families and same-sex couples will most likely not be included in 884 pages of immigration reform legislation dubbed the "Gang of Eight Bill," expected to be introduced in the Senate next week. According to several LGBT organizations, that means many binational same-sex couples will continue to be split up, with some noncitizen partners facing deportation and separation from their families.
According to the Washington Blade, New York representative Jerrold Nadler, who introduced the bill in the House in February, was discouraged. "This is disappointing but not particularly surprising," Nadler told the Blade. Even more surprising, though, is the fact that the bill's authors include Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, both of whom are champions of gay rights. Nadler adds that he will "fight like hell" to ensure LGBT-inclusive language remains in any House and Senate conference report.
Leading LGBT and immigration advocacy organizations promise they won't go down without a fight, though. "We are not expecting LGBT families to be included in the Gang of Eight Bill, " said Rachel B. Tiven, president of Immigration Equality. "That in our minds means that of course the bill is incomplete. ... We expect and we hope that senators on the committee will allow a full and open amendment process that provides an opportunity to fix the flaws."
As the House considers the legislation, supporters continue to defend the rights of LGBT immigrants who seek citizenship. Evangelical leaders have threatened to rescind their support for comprehensive immigration reform if the legislation includes protections for LGBT couples. But a broad coalition of LGBT advocacy groups promise they won't be bullied into submission.
"Our primary goal is to pass a commonsense, compassionate immigration reform bill that puts our nation’s undocumented men, women and children on a pathway to citizenship," says the statement, signed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream, and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. "That pathway would provide at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented people the opportunity to become full participants in our economy and our democracy. We do not believe that our friends in the evangelical faith community or conservative Republicans would allow the entire immigration reform bill to fail simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex couples equal immigration rights. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex bi-national couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship."
The Human Rights Campaign agrees. "The idea that lesbian and gay couples are the barrier to a bipartisan immigration reform agreement is an offensive ruse designed to distract attention away from the failings of Congress — a body that refuses to come together on popular and common-sense solution to a host of our country's problems," HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. "This bluster is nothing more than a political maneuver designed to divide the pro-reform coalition and at the same time appease a small but vocal group of social conservatives that will do anything to stop progress for lesbian and gay couples."