A top Republican involved in the talks for a Senate deal on immigration reform said Tuesday the inclusion of gay couples in the final agreement is “not of paramount importance at this time.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed disinclined to accept a provision for gay couples as part of the immigration deal headed through Congress — calling such a provision a “red flag” — during an interview on “CBS This Morning.”
“We’ll have to look at it,” McCain said. “We’ll have to gauge how the majority of Congress feels, but that, to me, is a red flag that frankly, we will address in time.”
LGBT advocates are seeking a provision as part of comprehensive immigration reform that would enable gay Americans to sponsor a foreign same-sex partner for residency in the United States. Standalone legislation along these lines is known as the Uniting American Families Act.
The Senate blueprint unveiled on Monday by the “Gang of Eight” — a group of which McCain is a member — doesn’t mention any such provision. An aide for Sen. Charles Schumer, a leading Democrat involved in the talks, told the Washington Blade that language for gay couples “is among the many unresolved aspects of the negotiations, which is why it isn’t reflected either way in the outline.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, blasted McCain in a statement for his reluctance to accept a provision for bi-national same-sex couples as part of an immigration deal while accepting a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
“It defies logic that Sen. McCain would craft an immigration proposal that would reward gay people who came to this country illegally with a path to citizenship, but deny legal gay couples the opportunity to access the same immigration rights as opposite-sex couples,” LaSalvia said. “Under Sen. McCain’s vision for America, a gay American would be better off urging his or her partner to break the law, sneak across the border and come here illegally, and be granted amnesty by the senator.”
President Obama is expected to include a measure for same-sex couples as part of his own immigration reform plan that he’ll unveil in Las Vegas later on Tuesday.
During a press gaggle aboard Air Force One on the way to Nevada, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney hinted that Obama’s proposal would include UAFA.
“The president believes that it should be included and that should come as no surprise,” Carney said. “As we’ve said all along, this is consistent with the principles he has laid out over the last four years. And the president has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love. And the president’s position on this is consistent with how we’ve approached prosecutorial discretion at [the Department of Homeland Security] and others.”
LGBT advocates, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they were involved in a call put together by Schumer on the issue in which Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) also participated. In the call, Schumer reportedly told advocates UAFA wouldn’t be in the Senate principles because Republicans were opposed to it.
Advocates said they were told UAFA might be put in the legislation at a later point and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) may offer an amendment in committee to include the provision as part of the package. Schumer also asked LGBT advocates to cooperate because the intention of the process was to bring along as many folks as possible.
Watch the video of McCain here (courtesy ThinkProgress):
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a comment from Jay Carney.