Sen. Chuck Schumer, far right, speaks while flanked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, center, and committee chairman Patrick Leahy during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform and border security April 22 in Washington, D.C.
LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform Good as Dead, Say Advocates

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com May 21 2013 2:47 PM ET

Updated: The Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon approved a version of the immigration reform bill with no provision for same-sex couples. Read more here.

 

LGBT activists across the country are fuming over what appears to be the death knell for hopes of comprehensive immigration reform that included provisions for binational LGBT families.

Two Democratic senators among the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" currently considering comprehensive immigration reform have indicated that they will not vote for two amendments proposed by committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy that would allow married Americans to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex spouse for citizenship. Advocates for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform contend that California senator Dianne Feinstein and New York senator Chuck Schumer, both generally considered LGBT allies, have caved to Republican threats to derail immigration reform entirely if LGBT families are included. 

The Associated Press reports that the White House may have pressured Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, to hold off on introducing his amendments, which were lauded as "brilliant" when they first caught headlines earlier this month. Washington reporter Chris Johnson tweeted that when Leahy was asked whether the White House asked him to delay introducing his LGBT amendments, the senator "gives an annoyed look and says nothing."

Similarly, Schumer said he had no comment about the LGBT-inclusive amendments when Metro Weekly reporter Justin Snow asked him Tuesday. 

President Obama signaled support for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform earlier this month, but the AP notes that he is unlikely to veto overarching immigration reform simply because it excludes LGBT Americans. 

While initial hopes for inclusive immigration reform were high, leading activists in the fight to end the state-ordered separation of gay and lesbian couples predicted last month that any immigration reform that reached the president's desk would likely exclude LGBT families. 

"The most vulnerable members of our community relied on Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein to stand up for us and end decades of catastrophic and irreparable harm to our families caused by DOMA and our exclusion from US immigration law," writes Lavi Soloway, an immigration attorney and cofounder of the DOMA Project, in a scathing report. "After all [Schumer's] promises to fight for LGBT inclusion, he has signaled day after day that he won’t upset the bipartisan Gang of Eight applecart. Dianne Feinstein, who, 35 years ago, became Mayor of San Francisco after the assassination of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, has once again failed to provide leadership when the going got tough."