WASHINGTON — Same-sex couples will be a part of the proposal for addressing immigration reform that President Obama is scheduled to unveil Tuesday in Las Vegas, BuzzFeed has confirmed with multiple sources familiar with the White House plan.
A Democratic source said: "Same-sex couples will be part of his proposal." A second source confirmed that, unlike the Senate framework released Monday, same-sex bi-national couples — those with one American and one foreign partner — will be included in the White House principles.
The decision by Obama seeks to remedy what advocates for same-sex couples view as one of the most searing inequalities under the existing federal limit on marriage to one man and one woman: LGBT American citizens simply have no way to confer citizenship on their romantic partners, something that is automatic — if not always simple — for straight couples.
Under current law, such same-sex couples, even when married under state law, are not eligible for the green cards that opposite-sex couples can receive. Foreign partners of same-sex couples have in the past found their green card applications denied — often forcing couples to separate or move abroad.
Although Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have taken steps to examine the issue and, in some cases, prevent deportation of the foreign same-sex partners of Americans, the Defense of Marriage Act continues to prevent the granting of green cards for such individuals.
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment about the issue Monday night.
When the Senate framework was unveiled Monday, same-sex couples were not included. BuzzFeed has learned that three of the Democratic senators involved in the bipartisan framework reached out to LGBT advocates on Sunday to let them know in advance that same-sex couples' immigration issues would not be addressed in the Senate framework.
An LGBT advocate on the call said that the call, which was led by Sen. Chuck Schumer and included Sens. Richard Durbin and Bob Menendez, included the news from Schumer that same-sex couples would not be addressed in the Senate framework to be unveiled Monday in order to maintain its bipartisan support.
The advocate also said that Schumer told the advocates that although there would be attempts to include same-sex couples at a later point in the process — up to and including during committee amendments — there were no guarantees that same-sex couples would be included the legislation.
An email seeking comment from Schumer's office was not immediately returned on Monday night.
Alex Conant, press secretary for Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the Republicans who announced the Senate framework Monday, told BuzzFeed shortly after publication of this story Monday night, "White House officials have talked to BuzzFeed more than they've talked to Marco Rubio about what they plan to say tomorrow."
"The issue of same-sex couples and immigration are details that still need to be worked out in Senate," Rubio press secretary Alex Conant added.
Earlier Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to say whether Obama would sign the Senate proposal if it passed as is, nor would he comment on a key Democratic concession to Republicans to make granting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants dependent on first securing the border.
The Democratic source said the White House is displeased by the proposal and his plan would not link the two.
This article has been updated to include the lack of comment from White House officials and the comments from Conant.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
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