As the current immigration reform legislation was being considered last night by the US Senate Judiciary committee, it became clear that GOP opposition to inclusion of LGBT rights would kill the bill. After months of threats to derail the legislation, last night the Republican senators on the committee made good their promises.
As such, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the committee said, “I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said. “So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”
Sen. Leahy asked those who stood against the amendment to add LGBT protections to the bill to address the issue.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned that “the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart” if the amendment was adopted. “It would be a bridge too far,” Graham said.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake: “It would certainly mean this bill would not move forward.”
The fear of losing the entire bill proved too much for some Democrats on the committee. Senators Feinstein, Durbin and Schumer all expressed their sadness at the lack of LGBT inclusion but said the loss of the full legislation outweighed the amendment.
Said Schumer, “They’ve made it perfectly clear that if this provision is included … they will abandon [the bill.] … If we make the effort to add it to this bill, they will walk away. … The result: no equality, no immigration bill, everyone loses. … Much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill.”
The committee voted 13-5 to move the immigration-reform bill for consideration by the full Senate, which is expected to take up the legislation in June.
LGBT advocates were immediately vocal.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin: “Instead of working to achieve common-sense solutions, Senators Graham, Flake, McCain and Rubio threatened to derail the entire immigration bill to appease a small but vocal group of anti-gay social conservatives that will do anything to stop progress for lesbian and gay couples. We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people.”
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of GetEqual: “Today it became clear that our so-called ‘friends’ don’t have the courage or the spine to stand up for what’s right, and are content to buy into the false choice that Republicans created — holding a sorely-needed immigration bill hostage in order to cement inequality into law.”