Collins joins Leahy, backs recognition of same-sex partners under immigration law

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Budget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (D-Vt.) and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) will introduce legislation that would allow U.S. citizens to sponsor their same-sex partner for legal residency in the country.

Collins is the first Republican supporter of the bill, which Leahy has introduced in each Congress since 2003. She said it would help keep same-sex families together by giving them the opportunity to live in the United States legally.

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“More than two dozen countries recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes,” said Collins in a statement. “This important civil rights legislation would help prevent committed, loving families from being forced to choose between leaving their family or leaving their country.”

Leahy at a Judiciary hearing on immigration Wednesday made a hard push for the language to be included in a comprehensive reform package that Congress and President Obama are beginning to craft.

“Any legislation that comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee should recognize the rights of all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans, who have just as much right to spousal immigration benefits as anyone else,” said Leahy, who will be responsible for shepherding the comprehensive measure through his committee.

Some Republicans, including Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Overnight Defense: White House 'not considering' Ukraine referendum | Pompeo hopeful on plans for Putin visit | Measure to block ZTE deal dropped from defense bill MORE (Fla.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainObama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (Ariz.), have signaled their hesitancy to tackle the same-sex partner issue, however, saying that it could jeopardize other areas of bipartisan agreement by triggering opposition from conservative members.

The bipartisan Senate immigration framework proposed by its “Gang of Eight” two weeks ago did not address the same-sex couple issue.

Obama favors treating same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples, but it is unclear how hard he will push for the language to be included in a final bill.

Vice President Biden describe a “wait and see” approach on the issue.

“We’re going to wait and see what the Senate bill and the bipartisan group presents, and we’ll make our judgments,” said Biden said in a brief interview with Bloomberg last week. “We made it clear what we think should be done, and we’ll see.”