Op-ed: The Double Betrayal of Marco Rubio

By Matthew Breen

Originally published on Advocate.com June 25 2013 12:54 AM ET

Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio’s recent tantrum over immigration reform was telling, not just with regard to his attitudes to LGBT Americans. We know his attitude stinks, to put it mildly. His fit was also very revealing about his true attitudes toward immigrants and the American families needing justice at which his legislation is supposedly aimed.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, recently said that he would revoke his support for the Senate immigration reform bill — the bill he coauthored and of which he is the key proponent — if any amendment is added that would include provisions for gay Americans. He would rather tank the bipartisan legislation, for which he’s supposedly the standard-bearer, than extend the same justice to gay people.

“If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I’m done,” he said in response to an amendment introduced by Vermont Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, which would make foreign same-sex spouses of American citizens eligible for green cards. He said this last Thursday during a radio interview on The Andrea Tantaros Show. “I’m off it, and I’ve said that repeatedly,” he added. “I don’t think that’s going to happen and it shouldn’t happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.”

Difficult for him? My heart bleeds.

The bill, called The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), is an immigration reform bill introduced by New York senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat. It was cosponsored by the other seven members of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of U.S. senators who hashed out the details key to each party’s perspective, and introduced in the Senate April 16. The key provisions include a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children; a pathway to citizenship for nonfelon immigrants who resided in the U.S. before the end of 2011, provided they apply for citizenship, pay any back taxes or fines associated with being here illegally, pass a background check, etc.; and an update of the methods of visa allocation under current family-based categories — unless your family includes your same-sex legal spouse.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government, which manages immigration, is prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages, and therefore gay Americans cannot sponsor their partners for legal residency in the U.S.

There are approximately 36,000 binational same-sex couples in the United States, and according to Immigration Equality, 45% of those couple have children. Rubio prefers to see binational couples and families forcibly separated, or LGBT Americans forced into self-imposed exile in order to live with their partners and children. Rubio is very clear on his position: Legally married heterosexual people are a superior class and deserve certain rights, whereas taxpaying, law-abiding, legally married LGBT Americans shouldn’t have access to those same rights.

On LGBT equality, he’s an outspoken bigot. But who else is he betraying? If Leahy’s amendment is adopted, Rubio says he’s willing to jettison his own bill, one that would affect the legal rights of millions of undocumented immigrants currently living, working, and going to school in this country. And out the window goes his commitment to immigrant justice. Include the gays, and all the immigrants can screw off.

Justice for families separated by borders is long overdue, as is legal status for DREAMers, students, and military personnel, and children who’ve never known another country. Nevertheless, we cannot be assured that Rubio has the heart to empathize with the plight of separated families. But even in the cold light of the Congressional Budget Office, Rubio and other anointed members of the Tea Party must contend with the nonpartisan CBO’s projection that fixing our broken immigration system will be an enormous boost to our fragile economy. Successful immigration reform will reduce federal deficits by $200 billion over the next decade and about $700 billion in the following decade. Taxes paid by legalized immigrants would increase GDP by 3.3% and 5.4% over the next 10 and 20 years respectively. We’re talking a gross gain to the GDP in the trillions of dollars by 2033.

But Rubio hates gay people so much he’d rather sacrifice the moral and economic benefits to the country in order to leave us out in the cold. LGBTs, Latino-Americans and would-be Americans — whom he’s no doubt planning to court on when he runs for president — would be wise to remember this.

MATTHEW BREEN is the editor in chief of The Advocate. Follow him @matbreen