Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) took a stand in favor if the rights of bi-national same sex couples Wednesday by filing a floor amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently making its way through Congress. According to the Washington Blade, Leahy's amendment would ensure that same sex partners of American citizens can remain in the U.S. without fear of being separated and deported by the government.
“Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do,” said Leahy in a statement. “I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.”
Bi-national same sex couples were excluded from the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill during its Senate mark-up period, but by proposing Senate Resolution Amendment No. 1182, Leahy has put the issue back on the table. Several Democrats had threatened not to support the reform bill of LGBT couples were included, prompting Leahy to temporarily withdraw the stipulation.
Politico said that it's unclear whether the amendment will even come to a vote. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell have yet to decide which amendments will be voted on for inclusion with the bill.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman is one of the main barriers to including LGBT families in immigration reform. Leahy's amendment, which some are calling a "mini-DOMA-repeal" would enable married same sex partners of U.S. citizens to pursue the same green card naturalization process available to heterosexual spouses.
Immigration attorney and founder of The DOMA Project Lavi Soloway told the Blade that the amendment wouldn't change the immigration code, but rather "simply removes the extrinsic barrier” posed by DOMA.
"[O]ur families are no different than any other American families comprised of citizens and non-citizens,” Soloway said. “We must have access to the same immigration law protections that ensure that no family is torn apart.”
The Supreme Court could well do away with this question altogether by the end of its present term should the court rule to overturn DOMA. The court could also decide whether Proposition 8, California's same sex marriage ban, is unconstitutional.
[image of happy lesbian couple via Shutterstock.com]