Senators John McCain, Chuck Schumer, Marco Rubio, Robert Menendez, and Senate majority whip Dick Durbin at a news conference on comprehensive immigration reform framework on Monday.
Will Same-Sex Couples Be Protected In Immigration Reform?

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com January 29 2013 1:10 PM ET

President Barack Obama is expected to propose that same-sex binational couples should be able to receive the same citizenship rights that heterosexual binational couples have.

As Congress ramps up debate on comprehensive immigration reform, Obama's speech in Las Vegas Tuesday will outline all of his proposals. Buzzfeed reports that the rights of same-sex couples will be included in his proposals.

However, Sen. John McCain asserted that including gay rights in the immigration debate would be a "red flag" that will interfere with bipartisan support for reforms.

"Well, it's something that is frankly not of paramount importance at this time," he said to CBS News. "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."

McCain added that including immigration equality for all couples in the sweeping immigration reforms that Congress will consider would deter getting a broad consensus on the proposed policy changes. The Arizona Republican is part of a group of eight senators who submitted a basic framework to address immigration reform. Their proposals address border patrol, defining clearer paths toward citizenship, and employment verification, among other issues.

In the House, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York has been a sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act for several congressional sessions. The UAFA would extend immigration rights to same-sex couples and their families. Nadler told Buzzfeed Monday that it would be "madness" for immigration reform not to include protections for same-sex couples.

"I will certainly do everything in my power to ensure that that happens," he said. "LGBT immigration rights are, after all, now supported by a broad array of legislators from all quarters of Congress and from both parties."

Several major LGBT organizations are also backing a comprehensive and inclusive push on immigration, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The groups issued a joint statement applauding the upcoming efforts in general, but urged lawmakers to "include the ability of couples in same-sex relationships to sponsor their spouse or permanent partner in the same way opposite-sex couples have long been able to under current immigration law."

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez of GetEqual also urged Congress to consider inclusive immigration reform to protect those who come to the U.S. for safety.

"Many immigrants cross the border seeking protection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Sousa-Rodriguez said in a statement Monday. "As we learn more about the Senate principles and hear President Obama's immigration framework tomorrow, we hope the President specifically outlines a proposal that fully integrates the needs of LGBT immigrants in the United States."