John McCain's Bitter Battle

On immigration reform, the self-regarding Arizona senator once again picks a fight over equality for LGBT people

By Sean Bugg
Published on January 31, 2013, 3:13am | Comments

So this week finally saw a bout of bipartisan movement in the Senate with the introduction of an immigration-reform plan. This is exciting news for me, in part because my general political principles include having the most open immigration policy possible — despite the outcries of regressive tea partiers, the desire to become an American by choice rather than birth is one of the most vital parts of the American story.

But in this case, the political is also the personal. I know a number of people who are undocumented, including some who came here as children and are as American as you or I, because being American isn't determined by accent. And, of course, most of these people I know are gay so one of the most readily available paths to citizenship — marriage — has been closed to them. Suddenly, the pathway may be opening.

So it was good to see Republican Sen. John McCain bring his trademark steadiness and common sense to this important national issue.

It's also a good thing I don't laugh with my fingers, because I never would've gotten that sentence out.

What actually happened was that McCain once again came across the idea of equal treatment for LGBT citizens and stuck a finger in its eye, calling it a ''red flag'' and an issue that's ''not of paramount importance.'' McCain's political ideology, which can charitably be described as malleable but more accurately described as bitterly erratic, has no room for LGBT equality. You can't forget his vituperative crusade against DADT repeal — a repeal he once hinted he would support, until he lost an election and chose spite over reason.

Then South Carolina's Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — who by a not-at-all unspoken rule of left-wing opinion writing is always to be linked with fey verbs and adjectives, so I'm going with ''prance'' — pranced in to provide support for his best bud McCain, saying, ''Why don't we just put legalized abortion in there and round it all out?'' In addition to keeping it classy, you can be sure McCain and Graham will take that ''red flag'' on the idea of fair treatment for gay, lesbian and bisexual international couples to continue their ridiculous campaign against all things Obama.

I've railed against the gerontocracy running the Senate before, though perhaps some might think I'm joking. I'm not. It's a sad and pathetic fact of life that our country — browner, more open to women and more multilingual every day — is still held hostage to a group of old, white men. That's not an ageist slam; I've had relatives who were past 90 and were sharper of mind than some senators in their sixth and seventh terms. But for every exception like the late Daniel Inouye, there are plenty more Strom Thurmonds and Robert Byrds. It's yet another reason to be excited by Newark Mayor Cory Booker's decision to launch a Democratic primary challenge to 89-year-old New Jersey Sen. Frank Launtenberg. We pretty desperately need a government that's at least passingly similar to its people.

As for immigration reform, I'm still excited by the overall possibility, though at this point it remains a big basket of chickens that haven't hatched. Even without the attempts of McCain to turn President Obama's inclusion of LGBT equality into another battle, there's enough deep-seated hatred of immigrants on the far, far right of the Republican Party to sink or delay reform even if Rush Limbaugh asks them to take one for the team.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg.


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