The gay community seemed to gasp in unison on Monday afternoon when the Senate revealed a much anticipated immigration plan that did not, in the end, include same-sex couples. But according to multiple reports Monday night, this is just the beginning: President Obama will include same-sex couples in the proposals of a major policy speech on immigration in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon that will seek to build on "momentum" from Congress for broad reform.
On Monday night, BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner and Zeke Miller reported that Obama would indeed include same sex couples in his immigration reform package. In their own words: "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." This means that, if Obama does make the change and if the proposal makes it through Congress, same-sex couples that include one partner as an immigrant would have equal rights as heterosexual couples on crucial issues like green cards. In another report Monday night, The Washington Post's David Nakamura and Rosalind S. Helderman reported that Obama was "likely" to support the same-sex couple move in his immigration proposals.
This would be a very presidential move for the president — decisive, direct, and somewhat demanding. After all, the folks on Capitol Hill have so far been super ambivalent about the issue. It was not included in the official Senate proposal after details leaked earlier Monday, but lawmakers had discussed including same-sex couples in the new set of laws. However, when asked why the initial proposal lacked LGBT provision. Sen. John McCain, one of four Republicans working on the proposal simply said, "We'll be working out those details." Rep. Jerrold Nadler was a little more opinionated about the issue, calling it "madness" that same-sex couples were left out — that it was a "major omission."
No matter what happens from here on out, it's becoming apparent that the gay rights movement is about to latch on to the push for immigration reform. And why shouldn't they? The point of reform is to fix things that are broken, and as the country moves towards greater equality for people of all sexual orientations, why should same sex couples be left out? Well, it could get tricky. If the conversation turns too sharply in the direction of gay rights, the larger immigration reform process could get bogged down or even stuck in the mud completely.
Let's leave the ifs alone for now, though, and see what the president actually does. Obama is expected to deliver his address at 11:55 Pacific time "on the need to fix the broken immigration system so that it is fairer for and helps grow the middle class by ensuring everyone plays by the same rules," according to the White House. The speech, while praising the Senate plan, is expected to offer some differing proposals. Per The Washington Post:
But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties saythere is momentum for a comprehensive deal.
For example, the Senate proposal would let illegal immigrants obtain legal residency quickly. But it would not allow them to seek full citizenship until border security had been improved and a new system was in place for employers to verify the employment status of workers.
Obama will not endorse such a proposal, the administration official said.
Meanwhile, the Post says Obama's support of including same-sex couples in immigration reform "is almost certain to draw opposition from Catholic and Baptist groups that have been supportive of comprehensive reform." Whether that pushback could scuttle the entire legislation, of course, could take months to play out. The Senate plan apparently "landed with a thud" when the House Republicans got their hands on it, just as White House officials were describing the speech's whole purpose on Monday night as not about legislative language so much as "building momentum for reform in Congress."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.