Injecting benefits for same-sex partners into immigration reform would be a "deal-breaker" for conservatives, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told a Washington, D.C., audience.
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Speaking Thursday (Feb. 14) at a panel discussion on immigration reform, Land said extending legal residency to homosexual partners of American citizens would kill support among many members of Congress, as well as conservative evangelicals who back reform.
"It would imply that the federal government is recognizing same-sex marriage, which the federal government has not done," Land told the audience. "In fact, the federal government has a law in place [the Defense of Marriage Act]," which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Afterward, Land told Baptist Press, "Among the majority of evangelicals and Southern Baptists, it would be seen as a de facto federal recognition of same-sex marriage and thus would be a deal-breaker."
President Obama and some congressional Democrats have called for including sponsorship of residency for homosexual partners in immigration reform.
Assessing the Democratic position on the issue, Eliseo Medina, a union leader, told the audience, "Well, for us, we believe that everybody's created equal. So we think everybody should have the same opportunity."
Asked what Democrats would do if the same-sex provision is not included, Medina said, "I think that's still an issue to be decided."
Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, added, "We're not talking about equality. We're talking about recognizing a particular kind of marriage."
The panel discussion, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), came as Congress begins a push to address seriously for the first time since 2007 an immigration system generally acknowledged to be broken. An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are in the country illegally.
Four Republicans -- led by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- and four Democrats in the Senate have proposed a plan for broad reform. In his state of the Union speech Feb. 12, Obama called for immigration legislation in language that appeared conciliatory toward Republicans.
Both Land and Medina said Congress has a narrow window of opportunity.
"I do think that we are at a critical moment," Land told the audience. "I think if we don't pass this by July Fourth or by Labor Day, it won't get passed" in this congressional session.
"Otherwise, rancor over the financial and budget issues will have overtaken the bipartisan spirit that is necessary for immigration reform and will make it impossible to pass in this Congress. So whatever we do, we need to do quickly," he told BP later.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press