Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer
Will 'Gang of Eight' Democrats Fight for Gay Couples in Immigration Reform?

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com May 01 2013 11:32 AM ET

With the so-called Gang of Eight excluding gay couples from its immigration reform, now it's up to Democrats to amend the bill. But a new report in The New York Times casts doubt on the likelihood that will happen.

“There’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” said Sen. Jeff Flake or Arizona in the Times. “Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.”

Flake is one of the Republicans in the bipartisan gang, and others have made clear they too believe it would scuttle the entire effort.

"Well, it's something that is frankly not of paramount importance at this time," Sen. John McCain told CBS News earlier this year. "We'll have to look at it, we'll have to gauge how the majority of Congress feels. But that to me is a red flag that we will address in time."

“It will virtually guarantee that it won’t pass,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told Politico. “This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is. I respect everyone’s views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.”

To ensure that binational same-sex couples don't continue to be split up by the federal government, which doesn't recognize their marriages, the Times notes that the Judiciary Committee is the next likely place for an amendment. It's run by Sen. Pat Leahy, of Vermont, who is a strong backer of fixing the deportation problem.

But also on the committee are senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer, two Democratic members of the Gang of Eight that already excluded same-sex couples from the legislation. All of the Democratic votes are expected to be needed if an amendment is added in committee. It's unclear whether Durbin and Schumer will again allow same-sex couples to be left out.

When Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid was asked in February about speculation by Republicans that fixing the deportation problem for gay couples could derail immigration reform, he shot down the notion.

"If they're looking for an excuse not to support this legislation," Reid said during an interview with ABC News, "this is another one, but the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed."