LGBT groups are livid that gay couples will not be included in a new bill that would offer US citizenship to immigrants living in the country before 31 December 2011.
Senator Patrick Leahy (pictured) had tried to have same-sex couples included in the legislation but could not garner support from even his fellow Democrats who said they did not want the inclusion to jeopardize overall immigration reform.
‘We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights. At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families,’ read a joint statement issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
They added: ‘It is unconscionable that lawmakers committed to equality and commonsense, humane immigration policy were forced to make a false choice between protecting the rights of same-sex binational couples and keeping a tenuous coalition together. This take-it-or-leave-it stance with regard to same-sex binational couples is not helpful when we all share the same goal of passing comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship.’
If passed, the reform would provide a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in the US including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.
The groups say they will continue to work to improve the legislation and fight for its passage because it is still a ‘historic step forward for all immigrants and the LGBT community.’
The bill still addresses issues benefiting LGBT people such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities.
‘We desperately need to reform our broken immigration system immediately because it dehumanizes, scapegoats and vilifies all immigrants, including LGBT immigrants,’ they stated.