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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 3, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 18
'All our concerns are one' - On May Day, activists press for LGBT immigrant rights
Section One
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'All our concerns are one' - On May Day, activists press for LGBT immigrant rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle's May Day immigrant rights rally included two Gay speakers and many references to the LGBT community. But in the other Washington, congressional leaders still have not agreed to include binational same-sex couples in proposed immigration reform legislation.

In Seattle, a reported 10,000 marchers assembled in Judkins Park and then proceeded downtown for a rally at the Federal Building. The march was sponsored by the May First Action Coalition and El Comite pro Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social, and included the Washington State Labor Council, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, and many union locals, especially those in the building trades - which represent concentrations of immigrant workers.

The march downtown was led by a big blue semi belonging to Teamsters Local 174, and the Ce Atl Tonalli Aztec Dance Group, which kept up a lively pace all the way.

LGBTs FRONT AND CENTER
At the rally, LGBT issues were given a prominent place. Speaking mainly in Spanish, Carlos Padilla, an organizer with the Latino/Latina LGBT organization Entre Hermanos, told the crowd that many immigrants face multiple forms of discrimination.

'I am one of the Dreamers,' he said, referring to the proposed DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for young people who came to this country as children and are now pursuing education and gainful employment, 'and I am Gay.'

'I had to come out of the closet as undocumented,' Padilla said. 'Later, I came out of the closet as Gay. I am an 'undocuqueer' youth. All our movements, all our concerns are one. We are a community that seeks justice for all. 'It's time for all of us to come out from the shadows - and from the closets!'

Otts Bolisay, one of a binational couple, spoke about his experience being forcibly separated from his partner, Ken Thompson, because his temporary visa had expired. It is ironic, he noted, that he can now get married in Washington but, married or not, he cannot get a green card.

'I've always lived here on a temporary status, always with time ticking down when I'd have to leave again and never certain when I'd be able to come back,' he said.

DEMOCRATS DITHER
Meanwhile, Congress has still not decided whether to include families like Bolisay and Thompson in the immigration reform package now under discussion.

No LGBT-related language is included in the so-called 'Gang of Eight' reform bill that was agreed to by four Democratic and four Republican senators. But many Democrats now say they want to add language giving U.S. citizens in same-sex relationships the same right to sponsor their foreign partner for a green card that opposite-sex spouses enjoy.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is expected to offer an amendment to the base Gang of Eight bill, adding language similar to that in Leahy's proposed Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Leahy's office, however, insists no final decision has been made.

'The chairman believes that equality and family unification need to be a part of this legislation but he has not decided his amendment strategy yet,' a Judiciary Committee aide told BuzzFeed on April 30. 'All amendments must be filed by next Tuesday night [May 7] at 5 p.m. Then members will decide what to offer in the committee markups.'

Other staffers say that a Gay-related amendment to the Gang of Eight bill is almost a foregone conclusion.

'Frankly, the bill getting out of committee without the Uniting American Families language isn't really a possibility we've considered,' said Ian Koski, a spokesperson for Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who also serves on the committee. Spokespersons for two other Democratic members of the committee, Al Franken of Minnesota and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, also voiced support for the provision.

REPUBLICANS BALK
On the other side of the aisle, though, the idea of including Gay and Lesbian couples in the immigration bill has almost been rejected out of hand. Leading Republicans said that any attempt to amend the Gang of Eight bill would be unacceptable to them.

'There's a reason this language wasn't included in the Gang of Eight's bill: It's a deal-breaker for most Republicans,' said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of the gang. 'Finding consensus on immigration legislation is tough enough without opening the bill up to social issues.'

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is said to be an indispensable Republican vote if the immigration bill is to pass, was blunt: 'If that issue is injected into this bill, this bill will fail. It will not have the support. It will not have my support.'

In the House, Republican Speaker John Boehner suggested he might not take up the Gang of Eight bill at all. Instead, he said, the House might consider a series of piecemeal changes to immigration law - which would not include action to help binational same-sex couples.

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