Gay Couples Applaud Obama, Disappointed in Congress on Immigration

The political reality makes gay rights a difficult sell for Republicans in sweeping immigration bill.

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.
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Patrick Egan, a political scientist at New York University who is an expert on LBGT issues, says he would be stunned to see any protections for gay and lesbian couples actually make it in a sweeping immigration bill even after the president's clarion call Tuesday.

"It's hard enough for any gay rights bill or an immigration bill to make it out of Congress right now. This would be double trouble," Egan says. "I would expect that what the senators are doing is putting together a bill that can pass. Obama is putting together a wish list that reflects his party's priorities."

In the past, legislators could not even pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to stop the discrimination of employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, he says.

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Egan adds that unless the Defense of Marriage Act is ruled as unconstitutional, equal immigration rights for same-sex couples is almost an impossible reality.

"It comes down to marriage. The federal government is prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages as valid," Egan says.

So no matter what legislative steps Congress takes, Egan argues they could be mute in a court of law unless DOMA is repealed.

Blesch and Smulian, who are suing the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security over DOMA, know that the court, not Congress is the most likely avenue for them to finally be allowed to live permanently together in the U.S. Blesch and Smulian have had legal guidance from Immigration Equality.

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The couple is one of five involved in a lawsuit alleging that denying the green cards for spouses of same-sex couples is a violation of the Equal Protection provision of the Constitution.

"While it is not fun to be in the foreground of a movement and have our privacy taken away," Blesch says,"we do feel we have to do it as part of our ongoing struggle for equality."

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