Last night, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a sweeping immigration reform bill in a bipartisan vote of 13 to 5. The bill, drafted by the so-called "Gang of Eight," includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million people currently in the United States who do not have legal status. It also includes measures to strengthen boarder security, and new programs for highly skilled workers.
President Obama issued a statement supporting the advancement, saying the bill was "largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system." He continued, "None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."
Despite wide support, many LGBT advocacy groups are outraged after an amendment to extend protections to same-sex couples was dropped by Democrats. The amendment would give same-sex partners the ability to sponsor their significant other for citizenship, however conservative members of the Committee and the Gang of Eight threatened to pull their support for the bill if the amendment was included. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told the committee "So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it at this time. But I will continue to fight for equality."
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement "It is deplorable that a small number of Senators have been able to stand in the way of progress for lesbian and gay couples torn apart by discriminatory laws. We are extremely disappointed that our allies did not put their anti-LGBT colleagues on the spot and force a vote on the measure that remains popular with the American people."
Media Resources: New York Daily News 5/22/2013; Washington Post 5/22/2013; ABC News 5/21/2013; Associated Press 5/21/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .