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Gays first, then
illegals

Gays first, then
illegals

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Yes, immigration reform is vitally important. But if Congress wants to debate the extension of equal civil rights to U.S. residents, let's start with gays and lesbians who are already citizens

Debate around America's illegal immigration problem has reached an all-time high. With several versions of various bills being debated in Washington and hundreds of staged protests around the country both supporting and against extending citizenship and other rights to millions of illegal immigrants, America has forgotten that there are legal, taxpaying, and voting citizens in America who don't yet have all of their rights.

American citizens continue to be denied the right to marry because of their sexual orientation while their families are deprived of access to the 1,138 federal rights, protections, and responsibilities automatically granted to married heterosexual couples.

It's a slap in the face to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to take up the debate on whether to give people who are in this country illegally additional rights when we haven't even given the people who are here legally all of their rights.

If we're going to hold 24-hour Senate sessions using taxpayers' dollars, let those sessions be used to come up with a comprehensive plan that allows America's same-gender-loving stakeholders to have the opportunity to have the right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency or the right to receive family-related Social Security benefits.

While I agree that immigration reform is an important issue--and perhaps it could become the next leading civil rights movement--we haven't even finished with our current civil rights movement.

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts got it right when he said, "There is no moving to the front of the line."

Immigration reform needs to get in line behind the LGBT civil rights movement, which has not yet realized all of its goals.

Which is not to say that I don't recognize the plight of illegal immigrants. I do. But I didn't break the law to come into this country. This country broke the law by not recognizing and bestowing upon me my full rights as a citizen. As a black lesbian I find it hard to jump on the immigration reform bandwagon when my own bandwagon hasn't even left the barn.

President Bush wants a comprehensive guest worker program.

With all due respect, Mr. President, there can be no guest worker program until we resolve the issue of making sure that all lesbian and gay legal workers have the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner and the right to purchase continued health coverage for a domestic partner after the loss of a job.

Both Senator Kennedy and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas backed away from insisting that guest workers would have to leave the United States after their initial two-year visa expired, basically guaranteeing that immigrant families wouldn't be separated.

Well, what about making sure that the children of same-sex couples are protected and not separated from the parent they know and love in the event of an untimely death? Same-sex couples make commitments and form families just like heterosexual couples and need the same protections.

So, you see, America needs to take care of its own backyard before it debates on whether to take care of its neighbor's backyard.

Lesbians and gays should not be second-class citizens. Our issues should not get bumped to the back of the line in favor of extending rights to people who have entered this country illegally. Bottom line.

Author and poet Audre Lorde once said, "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."

While I know no one wants to be viewed as a racist when it comes to immigration reform, as a lesbian I don't want to move to the back of the bus to accommodate those who broke the law to be here. After all, immigrants aren't the only ones who want a shot at the American dream.

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