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Leahy Introduces Gay Immigration Rights Amendment To Full Senate

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont

There is a fifty-fifty chance that next Monday we will all know how the US Supreme Court will rule on same-sex marriage in two cases. The first case involves the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the second involves California’s Prop 8. That has not deterred Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) from introducing an amendment to the immigration reform bill to make it easier for lesbian and gay US citizens to sponsor their foreign-born spouses.

Leahy said in a statement that
“Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do. 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.”

Leahy had to withdraw the amendment last month during committee markup after President Barack Obama asked the Democrats to delay the amendment until the bill came to the floor of the Senate. It is, though, not known when the amendment, or the bill, will have a vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have yet to agree to the timeline of the vote, and it may not be until after the 4th of July recess that the bill comes up for a vote- if it comes up for a vote at all.

The bill has been facing stiff opposition for including an amnesty for illegal immigrants and offering them a path to citizenship while they are already in the States.

Leahy chided his fellow Democrats for not pushing the issue sooner. He said on the Senate floor that “The bill now before the Senate is not the bill I would have drafted. I voted for amendments in the Judiciary Committee that were rejected and I voted against some amendments that were accepted. I withheld an amendment for what to me is an issue of fundamental fairness in ending discrimination after Republican senators pledged to abandon their support for this bill had that amendment been offered, and I cannot begin to tell this Senate how much it hurt to withdraw that amendment.”

The amendment needs 60 votes in the Senate to pass, and faces a very bleak future in the House where Republicans are too deeply in the pocket of Big Conservative Religion to dare disobey them and vote for what is right.

The issue may be rendered moot on either 17 June or 24 June. The US Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on DOMA this month, and it could come on either of those two dates.

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