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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

May 22, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Do not exploit gay rights issue to stop immigration reform

The U.S. Senate is on the verge of debating comprehensive immigration reform, and there are signs Republicans and Democrats are cooperating to finally pass a substantial bill.  The Senate Judiciary Committee’s 13-5 decision Monday to send the measure to the floor is a big deal, and though I support equal rights for same-sex couples (and this board advocates enthusiastically for same-sex marriage), now is not the time for any special interest groups to exploit an emotional issue that risks killing the entire legislation.

Protesters make themselves heard in front of Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) office on May 22, 2013 in Doral, Florida. The protesters are asking Rubio to stop opposing the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families in the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Protesters make themselves heard in front of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office on May 22, 2013 in Doral, Florida. The protesters are asking Rubio to stop opposing the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here’s an Associated Press story outlining the sweeping  changes in the proposal. In general, the bill provides a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and a legal means for foreign workers of all skills levels to cross the border. The measure was in limbo for days over a proposed amendment that would have granted gay Americans the right to obtain a green card for their foreign-born partners. Some Republicans call the idea a “non-starter.”

I think that view is antiquated and totally unfair, but we have to deal with the issue before us. Comprehensive immigration reform needs the support of both parties to get anywhere. As the editorial board noted in April 10 and April 20 editorials, it’s taken nearly three decades to reach this point.

Focusing on making immigration laws more effective doesn’t mean we have to sweep the struggles of same-sex couples under the rug. It means we should simultaneously look at changing the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act. Repealing DOMA would make this controversy over granting visas to foreign-born partners a non-issue. The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in any day now.

Not an ideal solution, but a pragmatic one that will — eventually — satisfy everyone.

Comments | Topics: congress, defense of marriage, DOMA

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