Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of four Republican co-sponsors of the proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, said last week that adoption of an amendment to allow gay and lesbian Americans equal rights to sponsor their non-citizen partners for green cards would “virtually guarantee” that the broader bill would not pass the Senate. He warned that “if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart.”
The conservative groups running ads in support of immigration reform include FWD.US‘s Americans for a Conservative Direction, the American Action Network, and the National Immigration Forum Action Fund. A ThinkProgress review of top supporters of those groups finds several vocal supporters of LGBT rights.
- Americans for a Conservative Direction: Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.US, which funds Americans for a Conservative Direction, lists several co-founders and major donors from the tech community who have publicly or privately supporter marriage equality. They include Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, and several others. Zuckberg’s own Facebook has been among industry leaders in supporting equal treatment for same-sex couples.
- American Action Network: The founder of the organization is marriage equality supporter Fred Malek. The president of its affiliated American Action Forum, Douglas Holtz-Eakin signed a Supreme Court brief in support of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. Even board member and conservative bulwark C. Boyden Gray recently penned an op-ed in support of civil unions.
- The National Immigration Forum Action Fund. The group received a recent “six-figure donation” from hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer. Singer, whose son and son-in-law married in Massachusetts in 2009, has reportedly given more than $10 million to marriage equality efforts nationally and helped launch a super PAC to encourage other Republicans to support same-sex marriage.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, disputes Rubio’s assessment that LGBT protections would imperil immigration reform. “It’s not going to kill the bill,” he told Politico. Others noted to the publication that many made same threats about LGBT protections included in the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization, which garnered 78 votes in the U.S. Senate. Those provisions, like the bi-national couples protections, were opposed by Catholic bishops and some Evangelical groups.
As of today, 54 Senators have publicly endorsed marriage equality (including Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, a stand alone version of the amendment, and has endorsed the idea of inclusion of the provisions in a comprehensive reform package. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has endorsed equal legal rights for same-sex couples, through civil unions, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has said she is “evolving” toward supporting marriage equality. And the three Senate Democrats who have not yet endorsed marriage equality have each been supportive of other LGBT rights.
If Rubio and fellow Gang of Eight members Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ) joined with these Senators, the bill could easily obtain the 60 votes needed to prevent any filibuster.
But Rubio partnered with the National Organization for Marriage last year to make robocalls against same-sex marriage and boasted of the endorsement of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group. While he attempts to spin his opposition to inclusion of LGBT protections as concern for the bill, the fate of the bill really appears to rest in Rubio’s own hands.