Under the bus we go – WaPo: immigration overhaul could leave gay couples out

Posted on 13 Sep 2010 at 8:44am

You saw it all coming, right? In a pitiful display of bigotry by groups of people who are themselves oppressed and under the legal microscope, we seen the fight for immigration reform is a coalition in turmoil.

About 24,000 gay and lesbian couples in the United States include at least one foreign partner, according to an analysis of census data by researcher Gary Gates at UCLA’s Williams Institute. Though five states and D.C. issue marriage licenses to gay couples, a large number of the 24,000 so-called binational couples in long-term relationships live in states that do not allow or recognize gay marriage.

The demand by these couples to gain the same immigration rights as heterosexuals is supported by key members of Congress, but is undermining the fractious coalition of groups needed to push through an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Including equal treatment for gay partners of U.S. citizens, key advocates say, threatens to doom the already fragile hopes for change.

“It introduces a new controversial element to the issue which will divide the faith community and further jeopardize chances for a fair and bipartisan compromise,” said Kevin Appleby of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which last year said the inclusion of gay couples in a House bill aimed at reuniting families made it “impossible” for the group to support the measure. “Immigration is hard enough without adding same-sex marriage to the mix.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a 16-million-strong group of evangelical Latinos that could play a key political role in an immigration overhaul, is similarly opposed to including provisions for gay and lesbian families. The president of the organization, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, said that including such a measure would prove to be the “death knell” for comprehensive change.

Gay and lesbian foreigners around the country who are in the same predicament as de Leon said the opposition of powerful Catholic and Latino groups was ironic because those groups often saw an immigration overhaul as a civil rights issue – and were quick to blame xenophobia and racism for anti-immigrant sentiment – while simultaneously arguing against equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Again, religion has no place in determining the civil rights of any group of people, yet here we are, watching a chance to build a coalition being splintered by ignorance and fear. How can this be solved? Why is doing the right thing — including gay and lesbian couples in reform — “the problem” as opposed to the irrational bigotry in the Catholic and Latino coaltions? No one is forcing them to marry same-sex couples in the context of immigration reform. It has nothing to do with their belief systems. It’s about entitlement to equal treatment under the law, that currently doesn’t address the myriad problems caused by inadequate laws regarding undocumented residents in this country.
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