Vermont senator revives debate over gay rights in immigration bill
June 11th, 2013
09:24 PM ET
10 months 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. Tom

    Thank you Sen. Leahy for doing what's right.

    June 12, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  2. Liz

    Sen. Leahy, Thank you.
    Sen. Rubio, grow up.

    June 12, 2013 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  3. carloooos

    This guy is my hero.

    June 12, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  4. Steven Brooks

    We're ready, willing, and able to replace all of these dangerous clowns.

    June 12, 2013 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  5. Kele

    While I applaud Leahy's desire for equality this is not the right place to do it. Even if the amendment wouldn't kill GOP support it'd open a legal challenge to the bill since it'd go counter to DOMA which prevents the federal government and federal agencies (such as NIS and the IRS) from recognizing same-sex unions. Hopefully DOMA will be repealed by SCOTUS soon (since the GOP is unlikely to allow it to be repealed via legislation) and then the issue of Leahy's amendment won't matter, at least in the states that recognize same-sex couples and have an immigration case involving a same-sex couple.

    June 12, 2013 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  6. billfit

    Gays ruin everything. What's new.

    June 12, 2013 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  7. CurmudgeonTx

    Lack of morality, and abundance of perversity is going to be the end of the USA.

    June 12, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  8. Scott

    How about concentrating first on removing discrimination against American citizens before you go messing up an otherwise unrelated immigration bill?

    June 12, 2013 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  9. b

    introducing gay rights into an immigration bill, seems pretty self explanitory. If you want to kill the bill.

    June 12, 2013 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  10. CurmudgeonTx

    We are losing our morality to the perverse ways of a people that have lost their way. The USA will stand only so long once our moral foundation is cracked.

    June 12, 2013 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  11. Sighko Sis

    This will become moot in a couple of weeks when the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.

    June 12, 2013 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  12. Here we go again

    This is why guys like Leahy need to have term limits. Stop holding up the process dude!

    June 12, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  13. BostonBruins02125

    Why is this even an issue for Rubio and others? If same-sex couples are legally married, they should have the same responsibilities, rights and privileges as other legally married couples. Why is this such a problem??

    June 12, 2013 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  14. Robert

    This was the right thing to do. Kudos to the senator for standing up for what he believes in, and for what is right for America.

    June 12, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  15. sanityrules

    What does gay rights have to o with an immigration bill. This is just a political ploy to attack Republicans. Bad move. No one benefits from this.

    June 12, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  16. bigdoglv

    Because these fools have to add amendments to every bill that has nothing to do with the original ones, this one will stall. Why cant we let these issues stand on their own?

    June 12, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  17. browcarey

    It's a shame there are so many cowards in the Senate. Leahy is right... this is the right thing to do. Rubio and his cohorts who oppose this will be remembered in history in the same boat as those who opposed interracial marriage and integration.

    June 12, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  18. quinLee

    and I want a car that flies...but right now cheaper gas prices ( less than $2) would be awesome. C'mon Leahy, stop being an idiot. Putting gay rights in this bill is a poison pill.

    June 12, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  19. BCW

    Equal rights and equal protection for all couples once and for all. All families are the same. Please do not discriminate and break up families because one spouse in a same sex marriage is not a US citizen. That's flat out wrong and shameful.

    June 12, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  20. geggyg

    @ sanityrules
    Gay rights matter in immigration law because some migrants ( both legal and illegal ) are gay . Many gay and lesbians Americans have emigrated from the US because their partners aren't allowed to migrate to the US , as heterosexuals partners of US citizens often can do . Im gay , not American and not interested in moving the US , as I have an Australian partner here in Australia , just interested in human rights around the world .

    June 12, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. chill

    While the amendment might be the right thing to do, it really changes nothing if the bill fails to pass. Immigration reform is long, long overdue and should be passed in a way that will command a majority in both houses (I didn't say a majority of Reoublicans, by the way Mr. Speaker). If the Supreme Court doesn't "fix" the issue then by all means bring it to the floor separately. But don't kill immigration reform for a "make a point" amendment that will not become law right now.

    June 12, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  22. Mr Jim H

    For ME, I don't believe homosexuality is right. That being said, I don't have the right to tell others how to live. As an American, I think the Constitution automatically extends to soup of us without prejudice as to our race, color, gender, religion our sexual preference and see no reason why any amendments such as proposed should EVER.have to be added to any legislation concerning individual rights. We are already supposed to be protected under the Constitution and the amendment sounds redundant. It shouldn't be allowed to detail immigration reform. I know, it would be much easier if we will just accepted that all are produced under the Constitution, but, unfortunately, some of us think it protects only our.rights and not the rights of others.

    June 12, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. Amen

    Thank you, Senator Leahy.

    June 12, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  24. Jr

    What about our national anthem the land of the free. we're not all free quite yet so our national anthem is false advertisement to some groups

    June 13, 2013 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  25. not for premature add-ons

    Seems there are Dems and Gops who know this will KILL the BILL and are not happy with this. I am for these rights and i am VERY unhappy to see this stupidity. . Since DOMA is not repealed, it would be premature to consider this right that does not yet exist in a different federal measure. Do immigration reform as it it critical to get it done, and then argue to repeal DOMA. Then the immigration bill can get a legitimate amendment. Following Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs , love and marriage is a 3rd level want and not one of the 2 levels safety or physiological needs that many need to have addressed and are now at risk of being lost. Threatening access to more basic survival needs of many for grandstanding on something that is not currently legally feasible seems both selfish and foolhardy.

    June 13, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
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