At around 8pm EST today, the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its markup of the immigration bill and voted 13-5 to refer the bill to the full Senate for a vote, but not before some drama on LGBT petitioning rights.( h/t Phil Wolgin, Elise Foley, and Alan Gomez for their live tweet coverage of the markup sessions.)
In the early evening on May 21, Senator Leahy (D-VT) put forth his amendment 7 which would have allowed same-sex couples to file family immigration petitions for their partners. After some discussion, Senator Graham pointed out that they are trying to hold together a strong but fragile coalition and that, "There are a lot of people who support this bill who would see [Leahy amendment 7] as a bridge too far." Graham added, "If we try to redefine marriage with the immigration debate, it would mean the bill would fall apart". Graham tells Leahy "You got me on immigration. You don't got me on marriage."
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) spoke of her support for marriage equality but said the amendment would sink the bill. She "implores" Leahy to withdraw the amendment so as not to "blow up" the bill. She says if DOMA is invalidated, the amendment would be moot anyway. Leahy responds, "I can't emphasize enough to senators how important this is to me...I wonder if our grandchildren will look back on this the way we look back on miscegenation laws."
Senators Flake acknowledges how tough the vote is and Durbin agrees but says compromise in markup is required even though Durbin tells Leahy, "I believe in my heart of hearts that what you [Leahy] are are doing is the just and right thing." Durbin points out that 250,000 gay undocumented immigrants stand to benefit from bill, but says to Leahy, "but I believe this is the wrong moment, the wrong bill [to push amendment 7].
Senator Schumer says, ""this is one of the most excruciatingly difficult decisions that I've had to make" in public office..."I believe not doing this is rank discrimination and I believe it strongly." But he adds that he has been advised by his allies that this amendment would sink the bill. He "wishes it were otherwise" but believes "What can be accomplished in this bill for the 11 million in the shadows...is too vital to let fail now. As much as it pains me, I cannot support the amendment." Senator Franken says, "In my bones...I believe in equality." Several tweeters, @ma_me_ga: and @pwolgin at this point observe that the Democrats "look like they are in physical pain" at having to vote on this amendment.
With Feinstein, Schumer, Durbin and Franken saying they will not support the amendment, Leahy "with a heavy heart" withdraws his amendment 7. As Kerry Eleveld tweeted, "Leahy was the only one who stood up for same sex couples. The others simply said how torn they were." My two cents is that Leahy is morally correct, but the others were being pragmatic and that indeed the amendment would have sunk the bill.
12 hearings, 163 amendments and 29+ hours of debate later Comprehensive Immigration Reform heads to the Senate floor #TimeIsNow