Gay activists called foul when far-reaching immigration legislation
proposed by House Democrats did not include protections for gay and
The effort for immigration reform, led by Rep Luis V Gutierrez
(D-Illinois), previously included a legislative provision allowing
permanent citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for visas in the same
manner as heterosexual couples. The protections fell by the wayside
under heat from the religious community, including the powerful
Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Rep Mike Honda (D-California), lead sponsor of the gay-inclusive
Reuniting Families Act, said Gutierrez "did not want to deal" with the
gay provision and had instead favored a compromise that would have
delayed its taking effect until as many as five years later than the
rest of the bill.
Gutierrez denies intentionally abandoning the gay-inclusive
provision, saying lingering cultural tensions between the gay and
immigrant communities were to blame.
"There has never been a serious, in-depth discussion between the
gay and lesbian community and the immigrant community. It's never
existed," Gutierrez said, noting that he has an otherwise good record
on gay issues. "It's a new conversation, but not one that I'm fearful
of. I welcome it. But you can't expect after nearly two decades of
struggle for a new component to be quickly embraced."
The discussion will come to the fore this month, when the bill is
debated in the House Judiciary Committee. An amendment to the proposal
re-introducing the same-sex protections, penned by out
gay Rep Jared Polis (D-Colorado), will be considered by the panel.
Polis is confident the immigration bill will be gay-inclusive when it
comes to vote.
Rachel B Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality,
shares Polis's optimism. She says that while she is "deeply
disappointed" with the current bill, she realizes "this is not the
comprehensive immigration reform package which will move through the
House. And, there are many reasons to remain optimistic about our
inclusion in [the bill] down the road."
"The immediate future remains hopeful," Tiven continued. "There
are many more steps on our journey together -- and in the Congressional
process -- and we remain confident that, in the end, our champions will
stand with us, and immigration reform will include our families, too."
Rep Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) is not as cheerful, saying the
gay-inclusive immigration bill remains "a very, very hard sell" to
conservative lawmakers already reluctant to support progressive
|Author Profile: Joseph Erbentraut
Joseph Erbentraut is a Wisconsin-born freelance writer and editor
currently living in Chicago. His articles on politics, music and
culture have been featured in the Village Voice and other publications.
He also blogs at Chicagoist.
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