House Democrats are pushing for
inclusion of gay families in immigration reform.
On Thursday, a coalition of 37 groups
joined members of Congress in urging passage of the Uniting American
Families Act (UAFA) this year as part of a comprehensive immigration
The UAFA would allow gay Americans to
sponsor an immigrant partner for citizenship.
“Couples who are in love, who are
committed, who are married, should not be separated; one in this
country, the other in that country,” New York Congressman Jerrold
Nadler said at the news conference on Capitol Hill. “No
immigration reform measure will truly be deserving of the term
'comprehensive' unless it provides equality for gays and lesbians as
“Every day that Congress fails to
take action, American families are separated or forced into exile,
including more than 17,000 families raising young children,” Rachel
B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration
Equality, a group that lobbies on behalf of gay immigrants, said.
“For those families, and their loved ones, today's clear call to
action, from key Congressional champions, could not be more welcome
or more timely.”
Openly gay Colorado Congressman Jared
Polis said the country's immigration system “contains laws that
discriminate against LGBT families.”
“To be truly comprehensive and
achieve real, long-lasting reform, we must provide all domestic
partners and married couples the same rights and obligations in any
immigration legislation,” he said.
Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA) forbids any federal agency from recognizing married gay
Opponents of gay-inclusive immigration
reform say it's a back door to gay marriage.
“It tries to redefine traditional
marriage. I can't support that,” Utah Representative Jason
Chaffetz told Fox News.
Socially conservative immigration
reform allies also oppose inclusion of the UAFA.
In tucking the UAFA last year into his
legislation, the Reuniting Families Act, California Representative
Michael Honda angered conservatives, and drove one major partner to
withdraw its support.
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.
“[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 new push, however, appears to be
part of an effort to strengthen support on the left, rather than the
“An immigration bill with gay and
lesbian families attracts more votes than an immigration bill without
them,” Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, said.
That might be true in the House, but
not so much in the Senate, where Republican help is needed to
overcome a filibuster.
Barney Frank, the straight-talking,
openly gay Congressman from Massachusetts, doesn't see it happening.
“You got two very tough issues –
the rights of same-sex couples and immigration,” he told the
Washington Blade. “You put them in the same bill, and it
becomes impossible. We just don't have the votes for it.”