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Leahy poised to help bi-national gay couples on Senate floor

‘Mini-DOMA repeal’ amendment was withdrawn during panel consideration

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Patrick Leahy, United States Senate, Democratic Party, Vermont, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) filed a floor amendment for bi-national gay couples. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) filed a floor amendment for bi-national gay couples. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Senate Democrat who has championed legislation for bi-national same-sex couples has filed a floor amendment to ensure they can stay together in the United States without fear of separation.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on Tuesday he filed an amendment to comprehensive immigration reform along the lines of a carve-out to the Defense of Marriage Act that he proposed — and withdrew — when the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering the bill.

“Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do,” Leahy said in a statement. “I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on.”

The amendment filed by Leahy, No. 1182, would repeal part of DOMA to enable married bi-national same-sex couples to apply for a visa through the marriage-based green-card application process.

It was one of two amendments that Leahy filed when immigration reform was before committee. The other amendment mirrored the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign “permanent partners” for residency in the United States.

Leahy withdrew the amendments from the committee — saying he was doing so with “a heavy heart” — after Republicans said they’d bolt from immigration reform if it were adopted and Democrats said they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the amendment if it meant the larger bill would lose bipartisan support.

LGBT advocates, who expressed displeasure with the failure of the committee to include bi-national same-sex couples as part of immigration reform, had asked for a floor amendment when the bill came before the full Senate.

Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for Immigration Equality, praised Leahy and said the amendment would be “consistent with Sen. Leahy’s long-time commitment to LGBT binational families.”

“From the first introduction of UAFA more than a decade ago to his strong show of support during the Committee mark-up, he has always been at the forefront of the work to ensure our immigration system treats everyone fairly,” Ralls said. “If the Supreme Court doesn’t end this injustice, I have no doubt Senator Leahy can, and will. We will do everything we can to help him in that effort.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, advocates said Leahy introduced the “mini-DOMA repeal” amendment — and not the one that more closely mirrored UAFA — because the former is more likely to reach the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster on the Senate floor. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for example, voiced concerns last month about UAFA because she’s “not for just accepting affidavits.”

Lavi Soloway, a gay immigration attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project, said the floor amendment filed by Leahy doesn’t change U.S. immigration code, but “simply removes the extrinsic barrier” caused by DOMA that prevents gay Americans from filing petitions for their spouses.

“The implication of Sen. Leahy’s focus on equality is the overarching message that our families are no different than any other American families comprised of citizens and non-citizens,” Soloway said. “We must have access to the same immigration law protections that ensure that no family is torn apart.”

Filing the amendment doesn’t necessarily mean Leahy will for certain offer the measure on the Senate floor. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a ruling against DOMA as a result of pending litigation this month that would make offering the measure a moot point.

But Jessica Brady, a Leahy spokesperson, said she “can’t predict” whether offering the amendment would be dependent on a Supreme Court decision that upholds DOMA.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said determining whether the amendment has 60 votes for passage is difficult as the wait continues on the Supreme Court decision for DOMA.

“Your 60 vote question is unclear at this point and there’s a lot of moving parts to this amendment, like will the decision from SCOTUS come down first, like this Thursday,” Sainz said.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Peter Rosenstein

    June 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

    This is great and will show us who is with us by forcing a floor vote on the amendment

  2. shevmonster

    June 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

    A floor amendment is pointless and can only be seen as a political stunt to make Leahy look better on LGBT issues when the truth is he sold us out. If the Supreme Court nullified DOMA, it would have been easy enough to take the LGBT amendment out later, but by not putting it in while in committee, we can rest assured of a Republican filibuster on the floor. Moreover, if it came down to the bill really losing, or not getting through the House with LGBT protection, it could have been removed later, but getting it in later won’t happen so we’ve been seriously betrayed. There are 11 million illegal immigrants in this country and 36,000 binational same sex couples. There is no reason force thousands natural born Americans should be forced to move overseas to be with their spouse but then allow 11 million undocumented workers into this country with a path to citizenship. It is morally indefensible, and worse, it’s just plain stupid. I pay far more in taxes and consume way less in government services than the typical undocumented worker.

  3. Victor_in_PA

    June 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Senator Leahy – apparently the only senator left in Washington who feels like doing his job.

  4. Jim Guinnessey

    June 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Let's be clear: the Republicans in Congress are looking for any excuse to bow out of its support for any immigration reform bill. They have now once again sunk into the toilet to defeat the bill by once again making reform look like its being derailed by Gays.

  5. Clarence Wagner

    June 14, 2013 at 5:29 am

    At least there is one Senator who has taken the time to actually talk to bi-national gay couples and understand our plight. I am in this boat too, and am so frustrated that my partner of 4 years from Bethlehem, Palestine, may have to leave the USA, while his two sisters got status in the USA, when they were just engaged, and came over to enjoy being with their husbands-to-be with no fear of exile. IS THIS FAIR? Not. Keep trying and speaking out, Senator Leahy.

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Exclusive: Biden briefed on transgender deaths breaking record in 2021

At least 46 people killed in grim milestone

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President Biden was briefed on Nov. 18 on anti-transgender violence the year, a White House official said.

President Biden, in a year when the killings of transgender people are at the highest number in recorded history, has been briefed on the grim milestone of anti-transgender violence, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

A White House official confirmed via email to the Blade on Monday that Biden was briefed Thursday, Nov. 18 on the number of transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021, which was the same week as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

In response to a follow-up inquiry from the Blade on which principals were in attendance at the briefing, the White House official had nothing to share.

At least 46 transgender and non-binary people have been killed, which is the highest number since efforts to record those deaths began. The violence has consistently had a disproportionate impact on transgender women of color.

The Blade first posed the question about whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Nov. 12. At the time, Psaki said she was unsure whether Biden was briefed, but said deaths were “terrible, heartbreaking” to hear.

Biden’s briefing on the anti-transgender violence is consistent with the statement he issued on Saturday recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which decried the deaths of the 46 transgender and non-binary people killed in 2021.

“Each of these lives was precious,” Biden said in the statement. “Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people — disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

Biden, who has called transgender rights “the civil rights issue of our time,” is credited with being a transgender advocate in the White House, having issued policies such as a rollback of former President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order requiring federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible under the law.

The Biden administration announced in June an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive as possible, which the White House says is ongoing.

The year 2021 reached a new record for anti-transgender murders upon the death of Marquiisha “Quii” Lawrence, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot and killed in her home in Greenville, S.C.

Biden and other transgender advocates marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year with the solemn acknowledgment of the 46 transgender and non-binary people lost in 2021.

Biden as a 2020 presidential candidate highlighted ongoing anti-transgender violence, including its disproportionate impact on transgender people of color. In his comprehensive LGBTQ platform, Biden repeatedly pledged he’d take steps to protect LGBTQ people from violence.

In fact, Biden predicted the killing of transgender people would end if former President Trump were voted out of office, telling attendees at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in 2019: “The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration.”

Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison and LGBTQ Caucus chair Earl Fowlkes issued a joint statement, saying each of the lives lost “represents a family broken, a friend forever changed, or a community in mourning.”

“Today, we mourn the lives lost due to senseless violence,” Harrison and Fowlkes said. “Tomorrow, we reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to enacting the change necessary to create a future where no one is forced to hide or live in fear.”

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Biden recognizes anti-trans violence on Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record for transgender people

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President Biden recognized the deaths of 46 people on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

President Biden issued on Saturday a statement recognizing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, noting an estimated 46 transgender and non-binary were recorded as killed in 2021 in a horrific milestone of the most violent year on record for the transgender community.

“This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country — and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence,” Biden said. “Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in response to a question from the Washington Blade last week on whether Biden was briefed on anti-transgender violence reaching a new record in 2021, called the grim milestone “heartbreaking to hear,” but said she was unsure if Biden was briefed on the issue.

The Biden statement implies he was briefed on the deaths because it referenced 2021 being the deadliest year on record with 46 deaths, although the White House hasn’t responded to the Blade’s request to comment on whether he was briefed on the violence.

Biden moved early on during his administration to act on transgender rights, reversing President Trump’s transgender military ban and signing an executive order directing federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the fullest extent possible.

The Biden administration has announced an ongoing created an interagency task force charged with making the U.S. government as transgender inclusive, which is the White House says is still ongoing.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

November 20, 2021
 Statement by President Biden on Transgender Day of Remembrance
 This year, at least 46 transgender individuals in this country—and hundreds more around the world—were killed in horrifying acts of violence. Each of these lives was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice, and joy. Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people—disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls—who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.
 
In spite of our progress strengthening civil rights for LGBTQI+ Americans, too many transgender people still live in fear and face systemic barriers to freedom and equality. To ensure that our government protects the civil rights of transgender Americans, I charged my team with coordinating across the federal government to address the epidemic of violence and advance equality for transgender people. I continue to call on state leaders and lawmakers to combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation targeting transgender people, especially transgender children. As I have said before, these bills are nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation, they are un-American, and they endanger the safety and well-being of our children. I also continue to urge the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act so that all people are able to live free from fear and discrimination.
 
Transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But no person should have to be brave just to live in safety and dignity. Today, we remember. Tomorrow—and every day—we must continue to act.
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House resolution introduced to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance

2021 deadliest year on record with 47 recorded deaths

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Reps. Marie Newman (left), Pramila Jayapal (center) and Jennifer Wexton have introduced a resolution to recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance Photos of Newman and Jayapal public domain; Washington Blade photo of Wexton by Michael Key).

On the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a trio of House Democrats have introduced during a year with the highest recorded deaths of transgender and non-binary people a resolution that would officially recognize the annual occasion.

The measure was introduced by Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), who are known as vocal transgender advocates and members of the Transgender Equality Task Force, as part of group of 62 members of the U.S. House, according to a statement from the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. The resolution would commemorate Nov. 20 as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Newman, who’s been open about having a young transgender daughter, said in a statement violence against transgender Americans, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, has become a “national epidemic.”

“With this resolution, we are not only recognizing the far too many souls lost to violence this year but also honoring their memory with a commitment to fight against anti-trans hate, rhetoric and violence,” Newman said. “Transgender Americans face hateful and disgusting attacks — verbal and physical — every single day just for simply existing in the world, and each of us has a fundamental obligation to speak out against it.”

The Transgender Day of Remembrance comes with 2021 having the highest number of recorded killings of transgender and non-binary people in a single year. A total of 47 deaths have been recorded, according to the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

Wexton said in a statement the ongoing deaths of transgender people are “cannot be overlooked or ignored,” calling 2021 the deadliest year on record.

“Our trans friends and neighbors face greater threats of violence, bullying, and discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives, and they deserve justice and equality,” Wexton said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, under questioning from the Washington Blade last week on whether President Biden was briefed on 2021 being the deadliest year on record for transgender people, said the grim milestone is “terrible and heartbreaking” although she said she was unsure on whether Biden was briefed.

The White House hasn’t responded with any update on whether or not Biden has been briefed as of the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Jayapal, who in addition to being a transgender advocate has been the face of the $1.75 trillions Build Back Better plan approved recently in the House, said in a statement the names of each of the transgender dead should be spoken aloud, the action should follow.

“Our resolution acknowledges this truth as we continue our dedicated work to strengthen hate crime laws, pass the Equality Act through the Senate, and ensure that every transgender person is able to live freely as themselves,” Jayapal said.

An LGBTQ Equality Caucus spokesperson didn’t respond Friday to the Blade’s request to comment on whether House leadership gave the sponsors of the legislation any indication the resolution would obtain a floor vote.

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