Inclusion of gay and lesbian
immigration rights are being blamed for tripping up comprehensive
immigration reform legislation currently before Congress.
On Thursday, California Representative
Michael Honda introduced the Reuniting Families Act, a comprehensive
immigration reform package that includes New York Representative
Jerry Nadler's Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would
allow gay Americans to sponsor an immigrant partner for citizenship.
Introduction of the UAFA in the House
trails the Senate version, where hearings began on Wednesday.
But even before the hearings started,
social conservatives were howling over the fact that the UAFA was
included in the reform package, and drove one major partner to
withdraw its support from the House version that knits the two bills
In a letter sent to Honda, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a major ally in securing
immigration reform, called the gay provisions “contrary” to its
position on marriage. The new bills address gay inequities by
striking out language that reefers to married spouses in favor of the
more clinical – and socially contentious – term “permanent
“[Including the gay provisions in the
immigration bill] would erode the institution of marriage and family
by according marriage like benefits to same-sex relationships, a
position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage, which
pre-dates the church and the state,” the bishops wrote.
Another ally, the National Hispanic
Christian Leadership Conference, decried the gay provisions, calling
their inclusion a “slap in the face to those of us who have fought
for years for immigration reform,” Reverend Samuel Rodriguez told
The issue is a powerful one for gay
activists who recently formed a group specifically to lobby on behalf
of binational gay and lesbian couples.
A spokesman for the three-year-old
Immigration Equality said the group was “disappointed” that the
Senate bill did not include the gay provisions but insisted Senator
Pat Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee charged with
overseeing the immigration hearings, was committed to passage of the
“Senator Leahy's hearings earlier
this week sent a clear and unmistakable message that he intends to
continue working hard for our inclusion in comprehensive immigration
reform,” Immigration Equality Director of Communications Steve
Ralls told On Top Magazine.
“Three of the four bills currently
pending in Congress include lesbian and gay couples, and we're
confident that as immigration reform moves forward, we will be part
of the effort to fix our country's broken immigration system,”
But even gay rights backers admit
they'll have a steep incline to overcome.
“You got two very tough issues –
the rights of same-sex couples and immigration,” openly gay
Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told the
Washington Blade. “You put them in the same bill, and it
becomes impossible. We just don't have the votes for it.”