Thursday, May 23, 2013


Editor’s note: Gavin Newsom is Lieutenant Governor of California and the former Mayor of San Francisco. In 2004, he defied state law and married same-sex couples. He recently published “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.” Follow him on Twitter @GavinNewsom.

It is outrageous. Once again the gay community is reminded of where it stands with the political leadership, both Democrats and Republicans. Their rights have been traded away for the sake of a political deal in Washington, D.C. The Senate Judiciary Committee, after five days of deliberations, passed out the "Gang of 8" comprehensive immigration reform bill, but without protections for same-sex couples.

The rights of the gay community are being dealt away once again for political expediency. This issue is not about policy or principle for Congressional Republicans, it is about homophobia and bigotry. There is no moral courage for Republicans in this debate; there is only tactical positioning.

Would we allow Congress to treat women this way? No.

Would we allow Congress to treat African-Americans or Latinos this way? No.

Why is it acceptable for Washington politicians to treat gay and lesbian couples this way? It is not!

Congress cannot continue to treat the gay community as second-class citizens. I applaud Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) for having raised the issue and preparing two amendments to the immigration reform bill. One amendment allows immigration rights for same-sex couples with permanent partners, and the other affords immigration rights to married same-sex couples.

But at the end of the day, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) held the bill hostage for the sake of bigotry and hatred. There is no morality or conviction here for Republicans, there is only politics. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) recently reminded Americans what this debate is about for Republicans when he pointed out that without the immigration reform bill, they cannot even "begin the conversation with our Hispanic voters, and all you have to do is the math."

Republicans need this bill to remain relevant with Latino voters, and Democrats need to call their bluff. This is an opportunity to put our principled democratic values up against the right's homophobia.

Rubio called the same-sex amendments a poison pill that would have killed the deal. But Rubio and his Republican colleagues cannot afford to lose immigration reform for fear of losing elections. If there is one thing Republicans despise more than gays, it is losing elections.

The gay community and their allies need to speak loudly and let leaders in Washington know that enough is enough. They need to count on Congressional Democrats to protect their civil rights, and if they fail to do so, they should expect to lose campaign money, volunteers and support.

At what point do Congress and the president decide once and for all that civil rights are universal and not subject to the whim of a minority party, representing a dwindling minority view about gay and lesbian couples.

It is time for Washington to get on the right side of history.

Gavin Newsom 23 May, 2013

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