Same-sex couples reportedly part of Obama's immigration push

The president will call for broad immigration reform in a speech Tuesday in Las Vegas

By Jillian Rayfield
January 29, 2013 7:03PM (UTC)
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The president is scheduled to make a big speech in Las Vegas outlining his proposals for immigration reform on Tuesday, and will reportedly include his support for addressing binational same-sex couples in any legislation.

According to Washington Post sources, "The president also is likely to support treating same-sex couples in which one partner is an immigrant the same as married heterosexual couples — meaning gay and lesbian immigrants in relationships with U.S. citizens could apply for citizenship."


BuzzFeed also reports that an unnamed Democratic source says, "Same-sex couples will be part of [Obama's] proposal."

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday that addressing binational couples is "not of paramount importance at this time."

"We’ll have to look at it," he said on "This Morning" on CBS. "We’ll have to gauge how the majority of Congress feels. But that, to me, is a red flag that, frankly, we will address in time. We need to get broad consensus over on our proposal to start with. And there are a number of very difficult issues we have to resolve."


On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight senators, including McCain, announced a framework for addressing immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the country. But that part of the plan has the murky specification that a pathway to citizenship is "contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.”

The Post reports that in general, Obama's proposals will be more liberal than those of the Senate's "Gang of Eight":

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. The president intends to make clear the need for a more straightforward route for un­documented workers and students to obtain citizenship, reflecting fears among advocates that a cumbersome process would create a decades-long wait for some migrants.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, wouldn't say in a press conference Monday whether Obama supports that part of the proposal, but he noted that border security measures “have never been better enforced than they are now,” including 410,000 deportations in 2012.


Though the "Gang of Eight" senators said in a press conference Tuesday that they were confident immigration reform will happen this year, House Republicans will not make it easy. So far, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was noncommittal, saying Monday that Boehner “welcomes the work of leaders like Senator Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal.”

But more conservative Republicans, in both the House and Senate, are already voicing objections, including Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who said a pathway to citizenship would be a "sticking point" between the House and the Senate, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who said, "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”


Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also said that he has "deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship," while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a member of the Tea Party caucus, said he doesn't support the framework: “These guidelines contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Barack Obama Immigration Immigration Reform Same-sex Marriage Undocumented Immigrants