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Leaders Predict Immigration Bill Will Exclude LGBT Protections

By Michelle Garcia

Same-sex couples and LGBT families will likely not be included in a sweeping immigration reform bill expected to be introduced by the Senate this week, says Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven.

According to the Washington Blade, Tiven and her organization will consider any immigration bill without LGBT protections to be incomplete. Meanwhile, both the House and Senate have reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act, which would provide citizenship rights for foreign-born partners of American citizens, much like heterosexual married couples have. The step is seen as crucial since an estimated third of LGBT immigrants currently in the U.S. are undocumented, and countless Americans are forced to flee their own countries just to remain with their partners under the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"If comprehensive immigration reform is to truly be comprehensive, it is essential that the needs of the LGBTQ community not be left out of the legislation," Cathy Kristofferson, co-lead organizer for GetEQUAL Massachusetts, said in a statement Tuesday. "In 2009, Sen. Chuck Schumer promised support for binational couples, yet that support—along with a clear pathway to citizenship for the estimated 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants, asylum for victims of homophobia abroad, and harsh detention conditions—still seem to be missing from the Gang of 8's offering."

While the UAFA has support in Congress, sponsor Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York told the Blade that he suspected that the Senate's sweeping immigration bill will be more likely to be voted on, but will probably omit LGBT provisions. Nadler still pledged to "fight like hell" to include the UAFA as an amendment to the Gang of 8-proposed bill.

Earlier today, Senator Patrick Leahy announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will have a hearing on immigration reform legislation on April 17.

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