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February 2010 Email this to a friend
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Gays dumped from immigration bill

By Joseph Erbentraut

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Gay activists called foul when far-reaching immigration legislation proposed by House Democrats did not include protections for gay and lesbian immigrants.
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 immigration reform.

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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