Big scoop from Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed. President Obama will include a fix for gay binational couples in his proposed immigration reform plan on Wednesday. Good for him.
Unlike straight couples who can get married in order to seek green cards and then citizenship for the non-American spouse, gay couples’ marriages are not recognized by the federal government because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Thus even if married to an American citizen in a US state, the non-American partner is eventually deported.
Interestingly, for lack of a better word, the Senate bipartisan immigration reform proposal, which our own Gabe Ortiz will be writing about later this morning, does not include any remedy for gay couples, even though gays and lesbians are a rather important part of the Democratic coalition, and played a key role in the recent election.
But is anyone surprised? When push comes to shove, Senate Democrats aren’t exactly known for their courage when it comes to civil rights generally, and gay civil rights in particular. As Joe Sudbay wrote about, a lot, during the painful effort to get Democrats to move on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a lot of people in this town, and a lot of Democrats, suffer from political homophobia. It’s the notion that gay civil rights is a third rail they must avoid at all costs, even if the polls, and the public, are on our side. Homophobia is an irrational fear of gay people, and far too many Democrats and Republicans suffer from it. Even after their fear of moving forward on DADT ended up in a resounding repeal that included even more Republicans than we had expected, Democrats are still, obviously, afraid of “the gay.”
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Senate Democrats came up with an immigration plan that did nothing to address the immigration problems faced by married gay couples.
Gay advocates had hoped that any immigration package would include the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that sought to put gay and lesbian couples on equal footing in the immigration system with heterosexual married couples. However, on Sunday afternoon, Sens. Schumer, Robert Menendez and Dick Durbin convened a conference call with gay rights groups to inform them that the legislation — at least the initial bill — will not include language to address LGBT concerns, a source familiar with the call told POLITICO.
“They blamed it on the Republicans…. Schumer was very matter of fact about it, very Machiavellian,” said the source, who asked not to be named. Gay advocates were told that Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will offer an amendment in his committee to protect gay couples.
While LGBT groups aren’t happy about their favored legislation being left off, they aren’t irate.
First off, I know a lot of gay couples who are going to be quite irate, especially at any gay rights groups who say they aren’t. Schumer isn’t the only one who can channel Machiavelli.
Second, I call bull on the “Republicans ate my homework” excuse from Senate Dems. The Democrats in the Senate agreed to the discriminatory deal. They should have let the Republicans kill immigration reform, yet again – because it wouldn’t have happened. The Republicans are desperate to do something, anything, that doesn’t antagonize Latinos any further, but rather curries favor, since the GOP is convinced (rightly) that the Latino vote was key to their demise, and Democratic victory, this past November. But far be it for Senate Democrats to use a tactical advantage to their, well, advantage.
Shame on Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez and Michael Bennet for caving to bigotry. And kudos to President Obama for doing the right thing, and the politically smart thing. (Dear God, we’re still playing the “gay civil rights are dangerous” game in 2013. Absolutely incredible.) Republicans are desperate for immigration reform. And embracing gay rights is a political plus, not a minus, for Democrats, as the President has already learned. Combining the two is a win-win for everyone. Does anyone really think the Republicans are going to risk killing the very thing they’re now most desperate for?
Let’s hope Schumer, Durbin, Menendez and Bennet figure out how to fix this — once they cut you out of a bill, fat chance getting added back in. Because we don’t need a Democratic civil war over an immigration bill that we’re all supposed to be in favor of. That will only benefit the Republicans. But I fear that’s what’s coming if Democrats permit Republicans to throw gay couples overboard. And that’s what three cowards in the Senate just did.