Leahy Amendment Includes Gay Couples in Immigration Bill

PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) talks to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) prior to a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee April 19, 2013

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has formally offered an amendment that would provide equal treatment for same-sex couples under immigration law, a proposal that's likely to spark a heated debate.

Leahy's amendment would allow gay and lesbian American citizens who are in a "long-term committed relationship" to sponsor their foreign partners for a green card, according to his office. Heterosexual couples can do so under current law, but a provision for same-sex couples was left out of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration bill.

"For immigration reform to be truly comprehensive, it must include protections for all families," Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "We must end the discrimination that gay and lesbian families face in our immigration law."

Leahy's amendment has long been expected, but it could be one of the most controversial proposals to be debated this week, when the judiciary committee will "mark up" the bill with amendments.

Leahy also filed a filed a separate amendment that "provides equal protection"under immigration law to same-sex couples of mixed immigration status.

Immigrant advocates have lobbied Democratic senators to include gay and lesbian couples in the bill. But Republican members of the "Gang of Eight" that crafted the underlying bill have said they won't support the language, saying it could alienate other GOP senators and prevent the bill from passing the Senate.

"I'll do everything in my power to see that it's not there," said Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), according to Politico.

"Bad idea," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who added that such an amendment would, "kill the bill."

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