WASHINGTON — Sen. Patrick Leahy withdrew his proposed amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have recognized the marriages of same-sex couples for immigration purposes on Tuesday night, after several Democratic members of the committee stated that they would not be supporting it.
A little past 7 p.m., Leahy said, “It is with a heavy heart … I will withhold the Leahy Amendment 7 at this point.”
Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, offered the amendment a half-hour earlier, saying, “I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country.”
He added, “Discriminating against people based on who they love is a travesty,” noting that he wanted to hear from members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators about why they didn’t include protections for gay couples in the initial bill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham went first, saying he opposed the inclusion of gay couples’ protections in the bill, despite noting his respect for Leahy’s “passion” is support of marriage equality.
“If you redefine marriage for immigration purposes [by the amendment], the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart,” Graham said. “It would be a bridge too far.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Graham’s comments, then, saying of Leahy’s amendment, “I think this sounds like the fairest approach, but here’s the problem … we know this is going to blow the agreement apart. I don’t want to blow this bill apart.”
She cited the fact that the Supreme Court could strike down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that prevents same-sex couples from having equal immigration rights in coming months. She also noted the a bill she is sponsoring to repeal DOMA is holding in the Senate, concluding, “I would just implore to hold up on this amendment at this time.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, another Republican in the Gang of Eight, said, “It certainly would mean this bill would not move forward.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democratic member of the Gang of Eight, then spoke up, praising Leahy’s leadership, but concluding, “I believe that this is the wrong moment, this is the wrong bill.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer went last of the four members of the Gang of Eight on the committee, saying, “This is one of the most excruciating decisions I have had to make in my [time] in Congress. … Not to do this is rank discrimination.”
He then said, however, of opponents of inclusion, “They’ve made it perfectly clear that if this provision is included … they will abandon [the bill.] … If we make the effort to add it to this bill, they will walk away. … The result: no equality, no immigration bill, everyone loses. … Much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill.’
“I will be here,” Schumer said to the LGBT community, to work on the issue in the future. “This is far from our last battle together.”
Sen. Al Franken, likewise, joined in the decision not to support the amendment, saying, “This is the definition of a Hobson’s choice. … It’s wrong to discriminate against people, but I do not want the LGBT people who would be hurt by this bill not passing, this whole bill not passing, to be hurt by this falling apart.”
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