The Senate Judiciary Committee begins consideration of the Gang of 8’s Immigration Reform Bill today. C-SPAN’s coverage should be must-see-TV for an audience of one: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Among the potentially contentious issues facing the committee is the inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Under current law, special immigration provisions available to the spouses of U.S. citizens are not available to LGBT Americans. Originally drafted to get around the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), UAFA would give equal immigration access to LGBT couples in state-recognized relationships, be they marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
The need to even discuss UAFA should make one thing clear to Kennedy as he considers his decision on DOMA and Proposition 8: moving slowly on marriage equality is more a step toward chaos than justice.
Until same-sex marriage is a reality nationwide, changes in the tax code, military benefits and more than 1,000 other federal rules we learned about in the DOMA debate could all require a UAFA-esque patch to deal with same-sex relationships. Every time that patch could be used to hold a bill hostage, despite Chief Justice Roberts’ rosy assessment of the political power of the LGBT community. Every time the patch fails, the status of same-sex couples and straight couples becomes more separated and less equal.