Gay groups are fuming after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an immigration bill without an amendment protecting gay and lesbian couples.

On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the amendment in the Democratic-controlled committee that he chairs. It seeks to allow a gay American to sponsor an immigrant spouse for citizenship, which is currently not allowed pursuant to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

But Leahy stood alone in his support. Within 30 minutes he withdrew the amendment “with a heavy heart.”

“I was shocked – and I suspect he was too – that not a single member of that committee joined him in saying, 'These are immigrant families, too. I care about these families,'” Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, told BuzzFeed.

Felipa Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEQUAL, reacted angrily to the decision to drop the amendment.

“Today it became clear that our so-called 'friends' don't have the courage or the spine to stand up for what's right,” Sousa-Rodriguez said.

For months, Republicans working on the legislation have warned that such a provision would sink the immigration bill.

Sousa-Rodriguez said Democratic lawmakers “are content to buy into the false choice that Republicans created – holding a sorely-needed immigration bill hostage in order to cement inequality into law.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said of Democrats: “We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people.”

Leahy could offer the amendment on the Senate floor.