By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com December 21 2009 5:50 PM ET

The leading gay immigration rights group expressed disappointment on Monday for being excluded from a House immigration bill, but expressed hope that a Senate omnibus bill would include protections for same-sex couples and their families.

Introduced last week by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, the bill provides a path to citizenship for the undocumented and includes provisions granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Though the bill is titled “[Comprehensive Immigration Reform] A.S.A.P.,” legislative sources say the bill is not comprehensive, but rather will inform an omnibus bill yet to be unveiled.

“We pushed very hard to be included in the bill, and we’re disappointed that [Gutierrez] didn’t include us,” Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls said. “However, when we learned that the bill would not be inclusive, we reached out to the congressman and his constituency in Chicago. [Gutierrez] gave both [our organization] and his constituency the assurance that he will absolutely push for inclusion in larger CIR bill.”

Current federal legislation already exists that specifically addresses LGBT immigration rights: the Uniting American Families Act has been introduced in both houses of Congress, by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York and Vermont senator Patrick Leahy. A larger House bill, known as the Reuniting Families Act, also contains UAFA provisions.

UAFA would create a new federal classification for same-sex relationships known as “permanent partners.” The criteria for that status range from the concrete (individuals must be 18 years or older and cannot be married to another person) to the complex (they must be “financially interdependent” and “intend a lifelong commitment”).

Ralls also noted that many cosponsors of Gutierrez’s bill are also cosponsors of UAFA.

The Senate is expected to see the introduction of its comprehensive immigration bill in January.