Thursday, December 5, 2013
WASHINGTON — Maine Sen. Susan Collins has received kudos recently from gay-rights groups for being the only Republican so far to sign on to 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 noncitizens 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 gay rights groups is the Jury ACCESS Act, which 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 transgender or openly gay.
Collins is one of three co-sponsors of 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.
DEMOCRATS GRAPPLE WITH VEXATION
Angus King's performance in recent polls can't quite be compared to a roller coaster, unless you're talking one of those kiddie coasters where lap bars are a formality. But it is safe to say that all of the polls show King's campaign is in motion -- and not in the direction he would prefer.
The independent candidate's narrowing lead over his major-party rivals is once again focusing national attention -- both in terms of media and ad money -- on Maine's Senate race.
On Thursday, a Washington Post politics blog suggested that King "stands out as a potential headache" for Democrats amid several weeks of positive developments in the overall race to control the Senate.
The vexxing question Democrats may soon have to ask, the blog suggested, was whether to help King defend himself against the rising tide of attack ads from Republican groups.
"It's not unheard-of for Democrats to back independent candidates -- they've done it before with Sens. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and Bernie Sanders in Vermont -- but King hasn't even said that he would caucus with Democrats," the Post's Aaron Blake wrote. "So would Democrats spend money to elect a guy who they aren't 100 percent sure would be on their side in January 2013?"
The Maine Democratic Party is publicly supporting Democrat Cynthia Dill (even if polls suggest that, at present, many Democrats do not plan to do so in the voting booth). So any money spent on King would likely have to come from national, Democratic-affiliated political action committees, given the shortage of deep-pocketed PACs supporting independents.
Such a scenario would certainly anger left-leaning Democrats in Maine already upset about the total lack of national support for Dill.
(Continued on page 2)