Sen. Leahy Reintroduces LGBT Immigration Amendment

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com June 12 2013 11:13 AM ET

After withdrawing the amendment "with a heavy heart" during the Senate committee hearings on immigration reform last month, Sen. Patrick Leahy on Tuesday introduced an amendment that would allow Americans to sponsor their foreign-born same-sex spouses for citizenship, reports Politico

“Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do,” Leahy said in a statement Tuesday. “I withheld my antidiscrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.”

The Vermont Democrat was an outspoken supporter of LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, and briefly introduced an amendment that included the Uniting American Families Act during the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" Senate committee hearings May 21. But fellow Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Chuck Schumer of New York indicated they would not vote for the amendment because they believed Republican threats to derail immigration reform entirely if it protected binational same-sex couples. 

Politico reports that it's as yet unclear whether Leahy's amendment will receive a vote on the Senate floor, but notes that the amendment will "almost certainly" require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass. If the amendment passed the Senate, it would face a steep uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House, where immigration reform in and of itself is a highly contentious topic.

But the Supreme Court is also expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the government from recognizing any union as a marriage aside from that of one man and one woman. If the court strikes down DOMA, it could open the door for legally married LGBT Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for citizenship the same way heterosexual spouses can.