Why conservatives should support immigration equality

Jonathan Rauch calls GOP opposition to including gay binational couples in immigration reform a "suicide mission"

Published May 2, 2013 6:11PM (EDT)

               (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

A majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and a (slowly) growing number of Republicans have recently come around to the idea, too. Despite this, the opposition to the inclusion of gay binational couples and their families in immigration reform remains strong. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), of "Gang of Eight" fame, told the New York Times on Wednesday that "there’s a reason this language wasn’t included in the Gang of Eight’s bill: It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans... Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues [like gay marriage].”

On Thursday in the Daily Beast, writer Jonathan Rauch called Flake's "deal-breaker" misguided -- and a GOP "suicide mission" (emphasis mine):

People often talk about marriage as a right. Which, of course, it is, as the Supreme Court decided years ago. But it is an unusual right: one which confers not entitlement benefits or other government-granted goodies, but responsibilities... This is a profoundly conservative promise. Two people look after each other so that the community, the government, much of the time, doesn’t have to. In exchange, the community and government recognize the pair as next of kin, and give them the tools they need to do their duty.

The single most important of those tools is the right to be present. It is very difficult to be in the hospital room with your partner if you cannot be in the country with her. Trying to keep the promise to “have and to hold” across national borders is a nightmare of vulnerability and anxiety. It’s common, as a result, for gay U.S. citizens to live overseas with their foreign partners, in effective exile...

Gay people are now serving openly in the military, but the other two moral yardsticks still apply. Especially immigration. Even from a conservative point of view — in fact, especially from a conservative point of view — it makes no sense to distort and disrupt gay families by depriving binational couples of the tools they need to care for each other. It makes even less sense to do that while providing aspiring newcomers with the tools they need to work, providing businesses with the tools they need to hire, and providing children who grew up in America with the opportunity to live as Americans.

Now here's why Rauch thinks it's a GOP "suicide mission": Opposing these things, the right to live in proximity and provide basic care for one's partner, will "demolish" Republicans "with Latino voters and business interests and young people" all in the interest of preventing "gay people from having someone to take care of them," he says.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Gay Marriage Gay Rights Immigration Lgbt Rights