BY LISA LEFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN FRANCISCO -- As a gay Mexican immigrant living in the United States illegally, Alex Aldana acutely understands his double-minority status. Not only does he fear deportation, he can't seek citizenship by marrying a partner because the federal government doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.
He and other gay activists are hoping the new immigration debate at the top of Washington's agenda will change that, and they are betting on a newly forged but still fragile alliance between a pair of voting blocs considered critical to President Obama's re-election: Latinos and the gay community.
The gay rights movement is working to make sure bi-national same-sex couples are included in immigration reform legislation making its way toward Congress, a tricky task for a constituency at the nexus of two hot-button social issues. So far, it has done so with strong backing from its liberal Latino partners.
Groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Council de la Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund - all of which endorsed same-sex unions last year - reiterated this week that married gays should be part of a reform plan that provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Both Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have included bi-national gay couples in their immigration reform blueprints. The framework that eight leading Democratic and Republican senators unveiled this week did not.
Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, two of the senators working to hammer out a bipartisan immigration bill, already have rejected the idea that gay immigrants have a place in the coming debate.
"I'm telling you now, if you load this up with social issues and things that are controversial, then it will endanger" the endeavor, said McCain, whose wife and daughter support marriage rights for same-sex couples. He does not.