A bipartisan Senate group that drafted an immigration overhaul bill that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has left out a provision granting spouses of gay American citizens visas to live in the country.
The Washington Post reports that Senate Democrats could not come to an agreement with the four Republicans conforming the bipartisan group, these included Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona, said Fallon. Democrats included Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill, named the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 was filed on April 17 at 2 a.m. After the bill goes through the committees, it could reach the full Senate floor in May.
About 40,000 foreign partners of gay American citizens won’t be able to benefit from the law. President Obama had said he wanted to include same-sex international couples in the plan.
Currently, laws do not allow for foreign-born, same-sex partners of Americans to request a green card or permanent residency on the basis of their relationship because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The federal law defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, which makes it impossible, even for binational couples married in states where gay marriage is legal, to petition for permanent stay in the U.S.
LGBT advocates expressed their disappointment, and some said they’ll now focus on pressuring the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal DOMA.
“We’re disappointed that we’re not in the base but we’ve always known that our best shot would be at the committee level,” said Fred Sainz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “The goal is to get into the underlying bill. How that happens is not as important as the fact that it happens.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights still hopes legislators will amend the bill in the committees to include bi-national couples.
“ remain confident that we will be able to add protections for same-sex binational couples to the final version of the bill,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement.
“We will continue to work closely with equality movement leaders and Senate members to improve the current draft plan, and to protect the ability of citizens to sponsor their same-sex foreign partners, siblings and other family members for citizenship so that immigration remains a way to keep families together and not tear them apart.”