Good news for advocates of immigration reform rang out from Washington, D.C., yesterday when a U.S. Senate panel passed legislation that will put millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

The passage of the bill was a win for President Obama, who said during his campaign that an immigration bill was among his top priorities for his second term. He said the bill is consistent with his goals for immigration.

“I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements,” Obama said in a statement the White House released yesterday.

The bill was passed by a vote of 13-5, and will allow 11 million illegal immigrants to participate in a 13-year path to citizenship.

In a move just before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., removed an amendment that would have allowed people to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners. The move drew criticism from gay rights advocates.

“Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for not defending LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) families against the scapegoating of their Republican colleagues,” Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a gay rights group, told Thomson Reuters.

Other panel members warned Leahy that the amendment would kill the bill. Leahy said just before removing the amendment, “I’m committed to ending that discrimination.”

The bill is scheduled for full senate debate next month.

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