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President proposes to protect binational same-sex couples in immigration reform

President Barack Obama offered his proposals for comprehensive reform in an address in Las Vegas on Jan. 29. The plan includes protecting binational same-sex couples who do not have access to the same marriage protections as heterosexual couples.

A goal to protect LGBT binational families was not mentioned in the bipartisan Senate proposal announced on Jan. 28.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the eight senators involved with writing that “framework” for comprehensive reform, told “CBS This Morning” that protections for LGBT families was not of “paramount importance at this time.”

But a component of the president’s plan is keeping families together. A White House release that coincided with the speech said, "The proposal … treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.”

At the nation's largest LGBT civil rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, president Chad Griffin said, "Every day, thousands of bi-national same-sex couples are confronted with the uncertainty of immigration laws that treat them as strangers. They face the impossible dilemma of having to choose between love and country.

"President Obama continues to demonstrate his tremendous leadership on behalf of our community by recognizing that fixing our nation’s flawed immigration system must include relief for these loving, committed couples and their families.  In addition, by establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including children brought into this country by their parents, the President’s plan will help millions of individuals at our nation’s margins."

The president's plan focuses on continuing to strengthen border security, cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers, creating a path to earned citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and streamlining legal immigration.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a Democrat from Chicago, responded to the president's speech. He said, "The president clearly sees comprehensive immigration reform as an attainable goal and I agree. There is a moral urgency to keep families together, stop the deportations and allow immigrants to fully integrate into American society. Every day we delay action is another 1,000 immigrants deported, hundreds of parents of U.S. citizens deported, and hundreds of thousands of young immigrants unable to fully achieve their dreams."

He continued, "Enough talk from Congress. We have talked about immigration reform for a decade or more; now is the time for lawmakers in both parties to come out of the shadows and work with the President in a bipartisan way to get something done."

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