On Gay Immigration, GOP Gets In Its Own Way

February 6, 2013 Current Commentary Comments Off
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Immigration gridlock may be starting to clear, but Congressional Republicans seem determined to keep throwing obstacles in their own way.

The bipartisan Senate proposal outlining a way forward on immigration reform is certain to change before its adoption. It was a starting point, not a finish line. But many Republicans, along with some religious groups, have balked at a major but important proposed addition to the plan: equal immigration rights for same-sex couples seeking spousal visas. The bill that would create this change, called the Uniting American Families Act, was Secretary of State John Kerry’s final act as a senator before he assumed his new position.

President Obama’s support for the measure may imperil the steps made so far toward immigration reform, some Republicans warned. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are under pressure from gay rights organizations regarding the absence of such a provision in the original draft of the immigration overhaul. The Washington Post reports that the bill has triggered intense lobbying on both sides, and conservative lawmakers have indicated that the issue has placed immigration reform in jeopardy.

This Republican resistance is short-sighted, if not entirely unexpected. The fact is that Republicans need to get out of their own way on the immigration issue, now that the party has realized the demographic imperative to come up with a sensible overhaul that is acceptable to the country’s fast-growing Hispanic population. Refusing to move forward on immigration isn’t a tenable position for a national party.

Republicans also need to recognize the majority of young people, including conservatives, see no moral or legal logic in discriminating against gay couples. If the GOP is going to stop being the party of a shrinking pool of aging, or downright old, white men – a Republican demographic that includes this writer – it needs to stop thinking like a party of old white men.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is one of the eight senators who developed the draft immigration plan and also one of the Republicans who has criticized the addition of recognition for same-sex couples. He said, speaking to Politico, “Which is more important: LGBT or border security? I’ll tell you what my priorities are.” Some old white men doubtless cheered the sentiment, but there are a great many young conservatives who don’t see why they should have to choose between immigration reform and rights for same-sex couples.

Perhaps the Supreme Court will solve the problem by broadly repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. The court will consider DOMA later this year. I believe the court will, at a minimum, uphold the lower court decision striking down part of the law. Some DOMA opponents hold out hope the high court will go further, declaring the law altogether unconstitutional. Such a decision would make it clear that the kind of discrimination some short-sighted Republicans favor is illegal.

Failing that, I suggest Republicans simply revert to their core position of telling the government to stay out of our personal business. After all, nothing is more personal than wanting your spouse to have the legal right to join you as a resident of this country. It seems like a position that Republicans of any age and color ought to be able to support.


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