President Barack Obama proposed giving gay partners of U.S. citizens the privilege of family member status for the purposes of immigration reform. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) warned that including the divisive issue could split the fragile bipartisan coalition in favor of immigration reform. Sen. Harry Reid accused Republicans of just making excuses to not support the legislation. A spokesperson for Sen. Marco Rubio told The Christian Post that the inclusion of gay partners is an issue that senators will be discussing as the bill moves forward.
"Which is more important, LGBT or border security? Huh? I'll tell you what my priorities are," McCain said at a breakfast last week sponsored by Politico.
Graham echoed a similar concern.
"Yeah, I mean, why don't we just put taxpayer-funded abortion in there and round it out," he said sarcastically, according to Buzzfeed.
When asked about McCain's comment Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Reid implied that McCain, who helped lead the Senate's immigration reform effort in 2007, and is part of the "gang of eight" currently working on bipartisan immigration reform, might be using the gay partners issue as an excuse to vote against the bill.
"If they're looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one, but the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed," Reid said.
The gang of eight proposal, announced Jan. 28, did not include family privileges for gay partners. The day before the announcement, three Democratic members of the gang of eight, Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), held a conference call with gay rights groups to inform them that gay privileges would not be included in the proposal, but Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would try to add it to the bill when it is in the Judiciary Committee, according to Politico.
A spokesperson for Rubio confirmed with The Christian Post that there are ongoing discussions over the inclusion of family privileges for gay partners, which will need to be negotiated as the legislation moves forward.
The Obama administration has already made a similar change with regard to immigration. Last September, the Department of Homeland Security directed those in charge of immigration enforcement to treat gay partners as relatives.
The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law. But, Obama has said he believes that Act to be unconstitutional and ordered the Justice Department to no longer defend it in court.
The Christian Post reported Saturday that two members of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical groups supporting immigration reform, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and executive editor for The Christian Post, also warned that including family privileges for gay partners would make passage of the bill more difficult.