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Leahy steps back on gay marriage issue

David Espo and Erica Werner, Associated Press

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, confers with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 20, 2013, as the committee assembles to work on a landmark immigration bill to secure the border and offer citizenship to millions. The panel is aiming to pass the legislation out of committee this week, setting up a high-stakes debate on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy says he will not offer — for now — an amendment to an immigration bill allowing gay Americans to seek green cards for their spouses.

The much-awaited announcement Tuesday by the Vermont senator clears the way for passage by his committee of the far-reaching legislation offering the possibility of citizenship to millions in this country illegally.

Leahy had been under pressure from gay rights groups to offer the amendment, which would have allowed gays to petition to bring their spouses to the United States like straight Americans can.

But the White House and other Democrats privately urged Leahy to hold off as Republican supporters of the immigration bill threatened to withdraw their support over the issue.