Immigration reform is a front in the fight for LGBT rights

Sen. Pat Leahy discussing (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Sen. Pat Leahy  (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press file photo)

With 11 million undocumented immigrants eager to come out of the shadows, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) was right to pull a provision of the massive immigration bill that would have allowed American gay men and lesbians to sponsor their foreign-born partners or spouses for green cards. As The Post editorialized today, “That provision would have made the bill fairer and more humane; it would also have cost the support of key Republican senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the bill’s authors.”

Leahy’s action was incredibly disappointing to gay rights advocates who want immigration law to treat same-sex couples equally and stop forcing Americans to choose between love of country and love of their partner or spouse. But can we keep something in mind, folks? Gay rights and immigration reform are not mutually exclusive. There are undocumented lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants who will benefit from the immigration bill headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

“The bill does currently address issues that will particularly benefit LGBT people,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement. They include “providing protections for undocumented youth including DREAMers, eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, improving conditions for people held in detention facilities, protections limiting the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibiting the use of this practice based solely on detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.”

That’s not to say that Carey is happy that protections for same-sex binational couples were stripped from the immigration bill. Like other LGBT advocates, she’s “deeply disappointed.” But Carey and others can see the forest for the trees. Besides, as Greg Sargent reported yesterday, Leahy is expected to reintroduce the provision as an amendment to the bill on the Senate floor.

That would make for some rich politics. The “GOP autopsy” of the party’s presidential loss was pretty clear. Republicans will hurt their prospects with Latino voters if they kill immigration reform. And if they continue their vocal opposition to gay rights, they will continue to turn off young voters. The Republican Party is between a rock and a hard place. And it got there all by itself.

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