US: Gay rights groups disappointed as immigration reform bill leaves out same-sex couples
Gay rights organisations pushing for same-sex couples to be included in an immigration reform bill in Washington, have expressed worry as a version of the bill introduced this month makes no mention of same-sex couples.
Plans laid out by President Barack Obama for immigration reform in January, included provisions for recognising same-sex families from different countries, and allowing visas for same-sex couples wishing to live in the US.
Now lawmakers have expressed fears that including same-sex couples in the groundbreaking legislation could throw the bill, which is being pushed forward by a bipartisan effort, off course.
White House spokesman Jay Carney last week said: “No one will get everything they want, including the president.”
Currently, straight couples can sponsor their foreign-born spouses to obtain green cards, however there is no equivalent option for binational same-sex couples.
Advocates of adding gay couples to the key bill, estimate that around 36,000 couples already live in the US who are not able to obtain the necessary green card, with more living abroad because they cannot obtain the visa.
Steve Ralls, of Immigration Equality, said: “The Obama administration has taken some positive steps so far… But they don’t provide a permanent solution.”
Part of the reason, argued by lawmakers, that same-sex couples may not be included in the bill, is that the coalition around the immigration reform, is fragile. Some Republicans have expressed a fear that including same-sex couples would alienate Hispanic voters and religious groups, who have expressed opposition to binational couples being granted green cards.
Kevin Appleby, director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Migration Policy, said: “It would certainly be problematic for us”.
Back in February, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy proposed a separate bill which would allow US citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency visas, however advocates recognised that the bill was unlikely to pass in the Republican controlled US House on its own, rather than being included in the larger, more comprehensive bill.