Defeat of DOMA More Critical Than Ever as Key Senate Democrats Signal They Will Abandon LGBT Amendments to Comprehensive Immigration Reform



Today will likely be the day many of us have long known would come. Twenty years of grassroots organizing and exhaustive advocacy have brought us here and yet it will now fail. The historic opportunity to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with an amendment providing for the unification of LGBT families is almost certainly gone.

Without an amendment in Committee, there stands zero chance of such an amendment being added next month on the Senate floor. Media reports (Politico, Washington Blade, AP) in the past few days have all but confirmed that at least two leading Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to empty Republican threats to sabotage immigration reform if lesbian and gay Americans are included. These two prominent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee could have stood up to the outrageous Republican scapegoating of lesbian and gay Americans, but they did not. If you have ever felt like calling a U.S. Senator, particularly if you live in New York or California, you should consider making that call now.


Despite hearing from tens of thousands of constituents in recent weeks, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) have not budged. They will refuse to vote for either amendment, and as a result, Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy will likely not call either of his LGBT amendments (the one based on the Uniting American Families Act, which I helped write 14 years ago, or his historic and unexpected Marriage Equality “DOMA Carve Out” exception) for a vote, knowing that the amendments will fail to garner the necessary 10 out of 10 Democratic votes to pass out of Committee.

The betrayal of our community by Senator Schumer who voted for DOMA as a member of the House and fought for gay votes when he ran for Senate despite HRC’s controversial endorsement of his incumbent opponent, Republican Alphonse D’Amato, is appalling to put it mildly. After all his promises to fight for LGBT inclusion in CIR, he has signaled day after day that he won’t upset the bipartisan Gang of Eight applecart by standing up for our community. Dianne Feinstein, who, 35 years ago, became Mayor of San Francisco after the assassination of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, has once again failed to provide leadership when the going got tough. Her leadership on the repeal of DOMA via the Respect for Marriage Act notwithstanding, this was the moment that counted. This was the moment that required courage and leadership. The most vulnerable members of our community relied on Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein to stand up for us and end decades of catastrophic and irreparable harm to our families caused by DOMA and our exclusion from US immigration law.

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Today, it seems clear, they will betray us. Remember this when you are rejoicing about the seemingly inevitable momentum we are experiencing as one state after another passes Marriage Equality. Remember this when Facebook is filled with BREAKING NEWS telling you that 54 Senators have declared support for Marriage Equality. Remember this when staggering public polling results show support for marriage equality reaching new highs in places as far as Virginia, and with every demographic, including the oldest Americans. Certainly, this progress should be greeted with elation, but if our elected officials refuse to vote for our lives, for our equality, and for our future, our families will continue to be torn apart. Parents will continue to be separated from their children for years, couples will continue to be forced into exile or separated for many years, and foreign spouses and partners of lesbian and gay Americans will continue to be deported.

Who could have stopped this? Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein. Who has refused to prioritize the needs of their large constituencies of LGBT binational couples? Senators Schumer and Feinstein. Please, by all means, call their offices and let them know how you feel.  Regrettably, I am forced to conclude that at this point it is almost certainly too late to pressure them to change their position; nonetheless, they deserve to know what their cowardice means to our community. They have thrown us under the bus, caving to Republican threats, rather than challenging their GOP colleagues to be accountable for their inflammatory anti-gay messaging.

What’s worse, in my opinion, it is becoming clear that there was never any chance that either of them were planning to go to bat for us.  So, for weeks, we endured gay bashing by Republicans over amendments that were doomed to failure in Committee because they lacked the support of cowardly Democrats. This was a foregone conclusion, and it cost us dearly.

What remains? We must defeat DOMA (see more here) because these U.S. Senators, generally regarded with good reason as being allies of our community, refuse to exercise leadership when the going gets rough.  We must win a decisive blow against DOMA in the Court of Public Opinion, and ensure a smooth transition to a post-DOMA future in which all our families are reunited and secure.

-Lavi Soloway, Co-Founder The DOMA Project, Partner in the immigration law firm, Masliah & Soloway



  • Jonny Ihler-O'Donnell

    I just can’t believe that our country sits on the sidelines while other countries federally recognize married couples of every walk of life. My husband and I will relocate to France once he’s finished with college. I can’t stay in a country that doesn’t recognize my rights. I’m sickened, sad, and feel defeated. We were going to partner with local news to share our story, and for what? Thank you Lavi, for all of your dedication, diligence, and compassion. I’ll send you a postcard.

    May 21, 2013
    • Julien

      Your French partner will be able to sponsor you for a “Carte de séjour” but you won’t be allowed to work for the first year. I guess that’s better than nothing but immigration in France is far from being a walk in the park… Not to mention the release of homophobic hate we’ve seen lately…

      May 22, 2013
  • cujodu

    We will not forget you Schumer and Feinstein. As you enjoy the summer with your families, remember ours, separated and in exile. How you could ever sleep at night is a miracle. Cowards!

    May 21, 2013
  • Kenny Hill

    I am SO F-Ing tired of people voting AGAINST us when voting FOR us would have ZERO effect on THEIR lives! This makes NO sense whatsoever!

    May 21, 2013
  • Todd Tif Fernandez

    Shame on Schumer & Feinstein. Shame on all Democrats. I came up with Plan B – that would have exempted immigration from DOMA – just in case we lose at the SCOTUS. They could of at least put that placeholder there. SHAME.

    But let’s also remember: This is the RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION calling the shots. It’s time to engage them directly! Here’s an action to email them:

    Email: “Stop Hurting Gay People” to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]. Or are we just going to take this like wimps and do nothing?

    Here’s the lead culprits pushing their weight around:

    They WON.

    May 21, 2013
  • Kevin Donohue

    Call the vote and let them go on record as having throws the LGBTQ community under the bus!

    May 21, 2013
  • Mike Rogers

    Not another fucking dime to those two sellouts. Backstabbing scum.

    May 21, 2013
  • [...] And Lavi Soloway unleashes at The DOMA PROJECT: [...]

    May 21, 2013
  • Homophobia Exposed

    Shared story n homophobia exposed (FB), on hold with Schumers office right how.

    May 21, 2013
  • Mac

    I think they may be playing a dangerous game and counting on a positive decision next month.

    May 21, 2013
  • Janice

    Been tweeting, posting, and contacting almost all day. I am furious! Not surprised, but absolutely furious!!!

    We have so few days left now to get out there and shout for our cause. Hoping and praying that SCOTUS delivers next month the decision that we all want isn’t enough…..get out there! We have to push harder and stronger than we ever have before.

    Don’t let this betrayal stand in our way…..but be sure to remember those who fought for us, and those who didn’t have the courage to stand by what they said in the past!

    May 21, 2013
  • kevin

    Called Feinsteins office got a very cursory
    10 second response that didnt give me any hope
    Wow after supporting her for 25 years that support is gone

    A San Francisco Democrat to not support this is unthinkable

    May 21, 2013
  • Hernan and Carlos

    So sad! Thanks Lavi and DOMA Project team for all your hard work!!!! This is not the end…..

    May 21, 2013
  • Janice

    None of this is surprising. Even if they had voted for Leahy’s amendments, how far would we have got?

    I hope that there is a back-up plan in the works should the Supreme Court fail us. I hope that these Senators are playing a clever game here. I really don’t know. I’m tired…we’re all tired of this continual pushing and pulling at something that breaks our hearts every single day.

    But…give up? Not a snowflake’s chance in hell!!!

    May 21, 2013
  • [...] on the eve of Harvey Milk’s birthday, Senate Judiciary Committee members have abandoned families like ours, by excluding LGBT binational families from immigration [...]

    May 22, 2013
  • Sandra

    This is very bad news and a sad day for the lgbt community. Now we’re all hoping that SCOTUS overturns DOMA next month. But I wonder if binational same-sex couples would benefit right away if DOMA is overturned. I read this article on Yahoo News that says that even if DOMA is overturned, it would require an additional act of Congress to extend federal marriage benefits to gay couples. This makes me very concerned because I don’t think the current Congress would extend any benefits to the lgbt community. Here’s that article:

    May 22, 2013
    • Derek Tripp

      Hello Sandra,

      While it is entirely understandable to ingest as much relevant information regarding this issue, I can tell you first hand that news stories and reporting can (and are) sometimes factually incomplete and/or inaccurate.

      The DOMA Project, as part of our advocacy campaign, has filed over 70 green card petitions for married couples and fiancés impacted by DOMA, and the only reason for their denials continues to be the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Without this law, same-sex couples would be able to be recognized as spouses, therefor family, for immigration purposes.

      Derek Tripp, Project Associate
      [email protected]

      May 22, 2013
  • Eric Ross

    I sent this message to Senator Schumer this morning:
    “I am expressing my extreme outrage and disappointment at your decision to abandon the LGBT Amendment to the Immigration Bill. While I understand the tradeoff having to deal with the obstructionist Republicans in Congress, this is still a shameful stain on your reputation and on our nation’s founding principal of equality for ALL. My family is now even more in jeopardy due to your decision.”

    May 22, 2013
    • The DOMA Project

      Thank you for sharing this, Eric.

      May 26, 2013

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.