Immigration reform is so gay — or not

Surprise. Gays have been axed from the immigration reform bill.

Oh sure.  We’re still “in” the bill, in a way.  The same way we’re in every piece of legislation.  By our mere existence.

You see, X% of the American people are gay, so any bill affecting anyone affects “some” gay people.  And some argue that that makes everything “gay” and a “gay issue.”  I don’t agree.  There are lots of causes I support that aren’t “gay” causes just because I support them, or even because they’re fellow civil rights causes (e.g., integration of schools isn’t a “gay” issue just because x% of the African-American kids being discriminated against were gay – I still support integration, but not because I think it’s gay).

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

I raise this point because there’s a big push going on to call immigration reform “gay,” and thus to get the gay rights groups, and the gay community at large, to make a big push for immigration reform, since we’re the new “it”-girl of effective political action.  And while I’m supportive of immigration reform, it’s because I’m sympathetic on the issue, not because I think it’s a gay issue.

Especially when we’re axed from the bill, which we just were.

What they refused to include in the immigration reform bill was UAFA, The Uniting American Families Act.  In a nutshell, if you’re American and you marry your non-American spouse, your spouse can remain in the US.  If you’re gay and you marry your non-American spouse, under DOMA they can’t be recognized and they get deported.  UAFA would fix that (as might overturning DOMA – but there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen, and in any case, we only have marriage in 9 states and DC).

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Up until now, UAFA was “the” gay immigration issue.  But now, UAFA almost feels like the crazy aunt we’re hiding in the attic (or closet), for fear of upturning the immigration apple cart.  And that bothers me.  Especially because I’m being asked to supporting immigration reform as a gay issue, when immigration reform isn’t supporting the one gay issue we have.

If you’re wondering who specifically is responsible for cutting gays out of the immigration reform bill, it’s these eight lovely souls, including four Democrats:

Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Another word about this notion that so long as 3% of those affected are gay, the legislation is a “gay” issue.  Under that logic, a non-Trans-inclusive ENDA would still be trans-inclusive, and could even be called “trans legislation,” because trans-people-who-are-gay would be helped by the legislation.  And in fact they would –  the same way that gay people who are undocumented immigrants would be helped by the immigration bill. Yet, I suspect that argument wouldn’t go over too well with the trans community, or most of the gay people arguing that immigration reform is really a gay issue, and I’m not sure why it should go over any better with the gay community itself.

Joe Sudbay used the term political homophobia to describe politicians who claim to embrace us, but when push comes to shove, they throw us overboard because they fear, in spite of the polls, that we’re toxic to their causes.  Here’s Joe’s definition from 2009:

Political homophobes aren’t gay-hating in the traditional sense. In fact, publicly, most are strong supporters of LGBT equality. But, behind closed doors, many Democratic leaders, consultants, Hill staffers and the rest will vociferously argue that there is no political benefit to actually supporting LGBT rights. Political homophobia is rampant among some Democrats. In some ways, it’s worse than blatant homophobia, since we think most Democrats are on our side. And outwardly, they are.

Political homophobia dictates policy in DC more than we’d like to think.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) agreed to drop gays from the immigration bill.

I’m not convinced that gays are toxic to the immigration cause. I am convinced that far too many Republicans are homophobic bigots, and far too many Democrats are political homophobes, and that’s why they got together and axed gay couples from the immigration bill, which will make it exponentially harder to now put us back into the legislation later on.

I don’t have a personal stake in UAFA.   I’m not dating anyone, let alone someone foreign.  But it’s 2013, and I’m getting tired of my community’s issues being excluded from omnibus bills dealing with those issues because people think we have cooties.  If we have cooties, then don’t try to market the bill as “gay.”  Because it’s not.  At least not anymore.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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