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Op-Ed
 

HRC: Failure to Include Gay Couples in Immigration Reform would be Republican Senators' Failure

Homophobia, Not Merits of Immigration Bill, at Play in Senators’ Threats

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By: Human Rights Campaign

May 7, 2013 - This afternoon is the deadline for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to file amendments to the Immigration Reform bill the committee will start marking up on Thursday. LGBT advocates have every expectation that an amendment will be filed adding bi-national same-sex couples to the bill. The four Republican members of the "Gang of Eight" have threatened to derail the immigration bill if gay couples are included in it suggesting that protecting this group, currently left out of our broken immigration system, is somehow different than the other important fixes contemplated. It's not.

If they end up doing that, they should just own it and call it what it is: homophobia. Labeling the inclusion of bi-national couples in the immigration bill as toxic is nothing more than a tired, insulting ruse designed to distract attention from their own failure to represent all Americans.

Senators can look to the recent overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization as their guide. There, Congress took an existing federal law and improved upon it to ensure that more vulnerable populations, including LGBT people, are protected. It can be done.

There is a jarring disconnect between the American public and these senators when it comes to issues of LGBT equality. It's pretty dated to consider LGBT equality as a controversial, hot-button issue like these senators are portraying it to be. In fact, a strong and diverse majority of Americans support equality. These senators are towing a tired line that no longer represents mainstream opinion, and they're throwing same-sex couples under the bus in the process.

Marriage Equality

Delaware today will become the eleventh state with marriage equality. The reality is that: 58 percent of voters, including 52 percent of Republicans under the age of 50, support marriage equality. Seventy-three percent of young voters, 59 percent of African Americans, and 59 percent of Latinos also support marriage equality.

But according to Senator Lindsey Graham, advocating for marriage equality is comparable to advocating for polygamy. Marco Rubio calls being gay a sin. Sen. John McCain has dug in on his anti-marriage equality viewpoints, insisting that even as some of his colleagues came out in support, he won't budge.

Employment Non-Discrimination

The reality: a whopping 73 percent of Americans – including 66 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents, and 61 percent of seniors – support workplaces protections covering gender identity and sexual orientation.

But neither John McCain nor Lindsey Graham support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). And, despite claims that he was against discrimination, Marco Rubio also refuses to throw his support behind ENDA.

Hate Crime Protections

The reality: A supermajority of Americans – 73 percent – support hate crime protections that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

But neither John McCain nor Lindsey Graham supported the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In fact, McCain railed against expanded hate crime protections to LGBT people, claiming to do so would "obstruct justice by forcing them [hate crime cases] into clogged federal courts."

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The reality: Nearly 8-in-10 Americans supported ending the discriminatory ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military by the time "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed in late 2010.

But there was perhaps no greater defender of the discriminatory policy than Sen. John McCain – who offered fiery speeches in favor of the ban, arguing that allowing open service would "harm the battle effectiveness which is so vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military." And just three weeks before DADT was repealed with bipartisan support, Senator Lindsey Graham brushed aside repeal efforts as a political move by President Obama, and declared "There is no groundswell of opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell coming from our military. This is all politics. I don't believe there is anywhere near the votes to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Republican Senators' Immigration Strategy at Odds with RNC Plan on The Gays

Just a few weeks back, the RNC unveiled their plan on how to be more inclusive and win elections. The Republican senators' strategy on the immigration bill is clearly at odds with a more inclusive and respectful Republican Party.

There are an estimated 1 million LGBT adult immigrants, of which about two-thirds are documented and one-third are undocumented—and an estimated 32,300 LGBT bi-national couples in the U.S. today. With these dramatic numbers in mind, it's critical that senators stop threatening to derail the entire effort when lives are on the line. HRC has made comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform a top priority.

 

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