Thursday, April 24, 2014
WASHINGTON -- Maine Sen. Susan Collins has received kudos recently from gay rights groups for being the only Republican so far to sign onto two bills that aim to address perceived discrimination in the jury box and in immigration cases.
Collins is the only Republican among 28 co-sponsors in the Senate of the Uniting American Families Act. The bill would essentially allow American citizens who are in a same-sex relationship with non-citizens to sponsor that person for a U.S. green card in the same way that heterosexual married couples can now.
The legislation would create a new classification of “permanent partners” for same-sex couples. The change would bring the U.S. in line with more than two dozen other countries – including Canada, the United Kingdom and France – that recognize same-sex couples for immigration purposes.
“Log Cabin Republicans are grateful to Sen. Collins for continuing to be the tip of the spear as a Republican fighting for LGBT families,” Clarke Cooper, executive director of the gay advocacy group the Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement. “The Uniting American Families Act is a vital piece of legislation for many in our community who for too long have been forced to choose between their love of country, and the loves of their lives.”
The other bill that has garnered attention from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) rights groups is the Jury ACCESS Act. The bill would prohibit federal prosecutors from attempting to disqualify anyone from serving on a federal jury because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Current law prohibits prosecutors from excluding potential jurors based on their race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs or other factors. Advocacy groups report numerous instances in which potential jurors were excluded because they were transgendered or openly gay.
Collins is one of three co-sponsors on the bill, along with Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The Human Rights Campaign publicly thanked the senators earlier this month for sponsoring the bill "and their long-standing support of LGBT equality"
Collins, along with fellow Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, are well-known moderates Republicans on many social issues. Both senators also supported repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibited members from being openly gay while serving in the armed forces.Tweet
Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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