Gay Partners Amendment Left Out of Immigration Bill

The Senate's immigration reform bill was passed out of the Judiciary Committee Tuesday without the "Leahy amendment" that would have given family status to gay and lesbian partners of U.S. citizens.

Republican members of the bipartisan "gang of eight" that crafted the legislation warned that they would withdraw their support if the amendment was included.

"You've got me on immigration. You don't have me on marriage. If you want to keep me on immigration, let's stay on immigration," Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), one of the gang of eight, said during debate over the amendment, according to Roll Call.

After that, Democratic members of the committee said they would oppose the amendment to ensure that the bill has a chance of passage.

"As much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill," explained Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), another gang of eight member.

After other Democratic senators, such as Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Al Franken (Minn.), said they would not support the amendment for the same reason, Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee, withdrew the amendment.

"I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system," Leahy said. "So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality."

If the amendment had been added, and the bill were to pass, the words "permanent partner" would have been added to the list of those who could qualify to become legal residents of the United States as a direct family member. There is no cap on the number of immigrant visas granted to direct family members.

President Barack Obama supported the amendment.

After the Leahy amendment was withdrawn, the bill passed the committee on a 13 to 5 vote, with three Republicans joining all 10 Democrats in favor of the bill. The three Republicans who voted "yes" were Graham, Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah).