Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee on same-sex partner benefits in immigration reform

By Staff
May 14, 2013

The following is a letter sent from Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging opposition to any same-sex partner reunification provision, such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), as part of immigration reform. The letter was sent May 14, 2013.

Download a PDF of the letter. (205 KB)

May 14, 2013

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee
United States Senate
437 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley:

As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers immigration reform legislation, we write to express our deep concerns on the possible inclusion of same-sex partner reunification provisions in such reform.

Let me begin by stating that the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission remains strongly supportive of just and humane comprehensive immigration reform. Following biblical principles, we maintain that reform must balance the rule of law with compassion for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. Such reform should secure our borders once and for all, ensure workplace enforcement, and provide paths to legal status and citizenship for those who desire it with appropriate restitution and requirements.

While we have not endorsed any immigration reform bill, we believe the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), introduced by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” is a good starting point. We now encourage the Judiciary Committee to work to strengthen, not kill, this bill during the amendment process.

At the same time, we are exceedingly troubled by efforts to include provisions, such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), that would enable same-sex foreign spouses or partners to apply for visas or spousal benefits under immigration reform. We strongly oppose any and all such amendments. Our concerns are several.

First, we have biblical concerns. As a matter of interpretation of Scripture, Southern Baptists do not condone any sexual relationship beyond the sacred bonds of marriage between a man and a woman. Most Southern Baptists, therefore, could not in good conscience support efforts by the government to aid the reunification of same-sex partners.

Second, same-sex partner reunification would violate the spirit, if not also the letter, of the law. The Defense of Marriage Act specifies that, for federal purposes, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. While its future remains uncertain, DOMA is currently the law of the land. Immigration reform is not an appropriate place to challenge it.

Third, a majority of the American people is ready, even eager, for Congress to break partisan divides and find a workable solution on immigration reform that balances respect for the rule of law and care for the stranger among us. Yet support for a same-sex partner reunification provision remains mixed at best. To ignore this reality is to risk poisoning reform.

Moreover, such provisions would cripple support from among the Evangelical community. For us, the issue is a deal-breaker. On this point we seek to be “Waterford” crystal clear: If UAFA or any other same-sex partner reunification provision is included in an immigration reform overhaul, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission would not merely hold a neutral position on the broader bill, but would instead actively oppose it.

We therefore respectfully urge you and the committee in the strongest possible terms to reject inclusion of any same-sex partner reunification or spousal benefits provision in a comprehensive immigration reform bill.


Richard D. Land

Download a PDF of the letter. (205 KB)

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