Vermont senator revives debate over gay rights in immigration bill
June 11th, 2013
09:24 PM ET
2 years ago

Vermont senator revives debate over gay rights in immigration bill

(CNN) – Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy filed three amendments Tuesday night to the immigration reform package, including a controversial amendment involving gay rights that could potentially derail the bill's progress in the Senate.

The senator from Vermont proposed recognizing same-sex marriages in which one spouse is an American, saying the amendment would "remove discrimination from our immigration system."

"Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do," Leahy said in a statement announcing the amendments.

It's unclear whether the Senate will vote on the amendment, but the proposal virtually has no chance of winning the 60 votes almost certainly needed to clear the 100-member chamber.

The senator first proposed the legislation when the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up the bill last month. With vigorous opposition from some Republicans and some Democrats saying they wouldn't support the amendments, Leahy ultimately withheld his proposals.

However, he indicated he may bring them back up again. After the full Senate voted Tuesday to proceed with the bill, Leahy did just that.

"As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on," he added in the statement.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio - the most prominent Republican in the "Gang of Eight," a group of senators who developed a bipartisan proposal - was among those who called Leahy's amendments a poison pill virtually certain to destroy GOP support for the measure.

"I hope we can avoid this," he said last month during committee markup. "This is not the issue to engage this in, or you will threaten the entire product."

Rubio threatened to remove his own support from the bill if the same-sex marriage measure stayed.

Leahy also proposed two other amendments Tuesday that did not involve gay rights. One seeks a “reliable” process for foreign performers needing to gain entry to attend American non-profit performing arts organizations, while the other calls for extending benefits to a child or spouse of immigrants who hold agricultural temporary work visas.

– CNN's Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Immigration • Pat Leahy • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. t3chn0ph0b3

    The man has an excellent point. His point is also impossible to refute without bible thumping.

    Go ahead, neocons. Try. Just try to make your point without going all Fred Phelps. I frickin' dare you.

    June 11, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  2. Ed1

    This is why things don't get done in Congress can't leave things alone what a jerk.

    Obama he is one of yours.

    June 11, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  3. Antwoine Anderson

    This is the kind of political brinksmanship that assures NOTHING ever changes in Washington. The issue of Gay marriage and gay rights can and must stand on its own. This move to associate this bill with gay rights will politically hold any movement on immigration hostage to the singular and selfish goals of the non-ethnic minority.

    June 11, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  4. Truth Partner 12

    Can't we work on our immigration debacle without bringing up private sex lives Sen Leahy?

    June 11, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  5. Jeff

    When we have SO many issues in this country....why...WHY are you pushing homosexuality?

    June 11, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  6. are122

    LOL, Leahy says he's for it and does everything he can to stop it.

    June 11, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  7. There He Goes Again!

    Well there he goes again! Rubio making it blatantly obvious that he is no friend to Gays and Lesbians! Everyone who votes in upcoming elections needs to Know and Understand that only Democrats truly care about your Equal Rights! It is a shame he would allow such prejudice to stand in the way of a good, workable bill that can and should be voted on.

    June 11, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  8. markiejoe

    Good. If the Senate Repubs vote down the gay rights amendment, they will lose even more of the 2016 gay vote.

    And then when the House Repubs vote down the entire bill because they oppose any pathway to citizenship, the GOP will lose yet even more of the 2016 Hispanic vote.

    Remind me, which is the fastest growing ethnic voting demographic?

    Republicans are setting themselves up to lose the next two Presidential elections - by wider margins.

    June 11, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  9. JT

    The US can no longer call itself a leader in human rights and freedom. It's religious-based discrimination towards gays puts it in the same company as Iran and othe Islamic countries. Except he US is a hypocrite about it.

    June 12, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  10. blakenaustin

    More far left nonsense. They are relentless.

    June 12, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  11. equality for all

    You cannot have one state say I DO and another state say I DONT to gay marriage

    You cannot have one country say I DO and another country say I Dont

    MARRIAGE CROSSES BORDERS...

    It is the right thing to do when it comes to equal marriages for all!

    June 12, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  12. Quest

    Marco Rubio is a disgusting Christian zealot. He sucks!

    June 12, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  13. Justice

    I've had it with the gay issue. These people will do anything to destroy our society.

    June 12, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  14. Observer

    I never ever thought that someday I would agree in something with Marco Rubio. He is, in my opinion, a self-serving politician linked to the worst of the American scenic: the Tea Party and the extreme right. But this time he is right. Why keep calling hom-o-sexuals with the word gay? They are hom-o-sexuals and period. That is the medical term for their sexual preference. Anyhow, Rubio is right on this. We certainly do not need more sexual "confused" individuals in our country. With the ones we have already it is sufficient. Disgusting fauna

    June 12, 2013 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  15. concernedcitizen

    Why is gay rights in an immigration bill?

    June 12, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  16. Rogue351

    It use to be that there was all kinds of chaos when an African American's wanted to marry a "white". In some parts of this great country this type of bigotry is still tolerated. However, in a much larger portion of this country no one blinks an eye anymore at and interracial couple. African Americans where once thought of as "property" not people. I am sure there are still those out there that still think it should be that way. But, laws have changed and most all peoples views have also changed. In some religions to this day it is thought that interracial marriage is a sin. But the LAW of our great country makes it illegal to discriminate. So why can we are a nation come so far on equal rights but still have exclusions such as gay or lesbian couples. Who exactly is holding our nation back from moving forward just as we didn't with African Americans ? Bigots, the religious right and hate groups, that is who. How can the larger majority of American that could care less if gay people marry, have equal rights be over ruled by a small percentage of people who still believe African Americans should be property, and if they don't believe this how exactly did they get past the this only to land on discriminating against gay people ? It make no sense, it is shameful for our nation and it is somewhat reminiscent of Nazi Germany. So the question that should be asked to the people that are against gay marriage is this. Was hitler right discriminating against a certain religion, race or sexual preference ? Does American really mean what it says on the Statue of Liberty ? Stop this nonsense give gay people equal rights. Push the bigots and haters back into the shadows where they belong.

    June 12, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  17. Narchais

    The Democrats don't actually want this bill to pass. They're deliberately tanking it to blame it on the Republicans.I won't pretend it isn't at least a little clever, but its our time and money they're wasting, so...

    June 12, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  18. Harcun

    I wonder if this Vermont senator truly wants Immigration reform to happen. He knows that if he adds those gay rights to the bill the GOP will vote against the bill. They will have a great excuse to vote against Immigration reform. The senator must have a closed relative that is gay and her or his partner is an illegal immigrant, so he wants to somehow help.

    June 12, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  19. B.Cronin

    So the takeaway is that Rubio is stating for the record that he and his republican co-horts are bigots. Now, there's a surprise.

    June 12, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  20. toydrum

    Why not just wait until the Supreme Court ruling? If they rule against DOMA, the marriages would almost certainly have to be recognized anyway, making this unnecessary. Why add something that will sink the bill when there is a good chance it is completely unnecessary?

    June 12, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  21. Lizard Lance

    Seems to me that Patrick Leahy doesn't want the immigration bill to pass or else he wouldn't have put it in dire straits. Leahy must be a bigot based on his action here.

    June 12, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  22. James

    This is just reckless. Attaching a completely unrelated issue to derail a very important bill. Who the heck voted this guy into office?!

    June 12, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  23. Walrus Mustache

    Now these Senators show their true hateful colors. If I want to marry a Frenchman or and anybody else, of course they should be granted citizenship just like straight people get to do. This is a no brainer. As an out and proud gay man I say we never stop until we get full equal rights. This is the type of issue that is killing the GOP....wake up you dinosaurs and get with the modern age.....Gay is ok and its here to stay!

    June 12, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  24. Quasi

    Rubio, exactly why is voting for equality a "poison pill"? If you believe that, then you are not an American citizen. The same goes for every other person who thinks that as well. Real US citizens are better than that.

    June 12, 2013 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  25. rosethornne

    Yes it's the right thing to do.
    No it's not the right time to do it.

    Get something passed first, then fix the details.

    June 12, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
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