Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Attorney General Eric Holder’

6th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via the website MetroWeekly.com, that the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, has vacated a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals which applied controversial section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in a recent case. To quote directly from a PDF copy of AG Holder’s order as posted to the aforementioned website:

Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

Those reading this posting are encouraged to read the article on Metroweekly.com posted by Chris Geidner regarding these issues as this blogger found that posting to be very insightful.

For those who are not familiar with this issue it should be noted that the current provisions of DOMA preclude accordance of federal benefits to those who have entered into a same sex relationship. This preclusion even overrides State prerogatives regarding marriage as, in an immigration context, the language of DOMA precludes recognition of even a same sex marriage solemnized and/or legalized in a sovereign American State. Currently, there is some legislation, such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or the Respect for Marriage Act, pending before the American Federal legislature which would seek to remove the current restrictions being imposed upon the LGBT community.

It remains to be seen whether same sex visa benefits will be accorded the same sex partners engaged in a bi-national relationship, but one thing is clear: there is momentum gathering behind the cause of LGBT equal rights as American authorities would seem to be taking notice of the legitimate grievances of those who have, for too long, been denied their rights to equal protection under the law. Meanwhile, this blogger finds it likely that there will eventually be some sort of decision regarding the accordance of Full Faith and Credit to those legal marriages solemnized and/or legalized by those States which currently license such unions. As of the time of this writing, however, such remedies remain to be seen and the assurances that they will manifest themselves sometime in the future is likely cold comfort to those who are separated from their loved ones now.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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8th March 2011

In what could possibly be one of the most convoluted political and legal issues currently in the American zeitgeist it has been reported by various sources that President Barack Obama is under pressure from many different groups regarding his recent decision not to enforce key provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). To quote directly from an article posted on AfricaOnline.com:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested last week that President Obama overstepped his constitutional bounds when he announced he would no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act in court.

In matters pertaining to United States Constitutional law the lines between the political and legal spheres begin to blur and for this reason the issues surrounding what may be the most interesting legal situation in recent history are difficult to sort out for those who have not kept up with the evolving posture of this issue. To provide a brief summation: the United States Federal government is currently barred from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples pursuant to the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Meanwhile, 7 jurisdictions in the United States, including 6 sovereign States, currently license same sex unions. Meanwhile, many sovereign American States have promulgated State Constitutional amendments forbidding recognition of marriage between same sex couples. Currently, there is a case that has been adjudicated by the Massachusetts Federal District Court which found that States have a fundamental right to marry those within their jurisdiction. Amongst advocates of States’ Rights, the significant issue in the DOMA cases is: FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized within the States’ jurisdiction. To continue quoting Mr. Gingrich according to AfricaOnline.com:

“Imagine that Governor Palin had become president,” Gingrich said. “Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.”

For those unfamiliar with the Roe versus Wade decision, this was the Supreme Court case which allowed women to receive abortions based upon an interpretation of the US Constitution. It is interesting that Mr. Gingrich noted the lack of “Mainstream Media” attention to this issue as there are those who could argue that the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community is an issue often overlooked by major media outlets. Clearly, the issue of same sex marriage is provoking strong reaction from various sectors of the American political spectrum, to quote directly from the website ThinkProgress.org:

Now, in the right’s furor over the administration’s announcement that it will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is calling for Obama to be impeached.

After the Arizona Republican advocated defunding the Department of Justice if it does not defend Section 3 of DOMA – “I would support that in a moment,” remarked Franks – he went on to say that he would “absolutely” favor impeaching President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder if such a move “could gain collective support”…

It would appear as though this issue is causing a great deal of political turmoil for Mr. Obama, but what is even more interesting are the underlying issues at stake for both the LGBT community and the sovereign States which comprise the United States of America.

To be clear, this blogger fully believes that the right to marry whomever one chooses to marry is a fundamental inalienable right and equal protection of that right should be accorded to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In this blogger’s personal opinion, if two people wish to consensually enter into a marital union, then their respective genders should not be relevant for purposes of government recognition of that union. However, there is an even stronger argument in favor of requiring Federal recognition of same sex marriage and this argument stems from the fact that 6 states have allowed some form of same sex union (civil union or marriage). Clearly, States have traditionally been vested with the power to solemnize and legalize marriages within their respective jurisdictions and the Federal government should be required to recognize such unions, but the provisions of DOMA preclude such recognition. For example, same sex bi-national couples who have legalized a marriage in, say, Massachusetts cannot be accorded the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. There has been some discussion of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would rectify this problem in the context of United States immigration, but this still leaves a fundamental question unanswered: when did the Federal government get the right to dictate to the States what shall constitute a marriage?

As to the Obama Administration’s decision to not pursue cases in support of the Defense of Marriage Act: the sentiment is laudable, but ultimately this action may not be in the best interests of the LGBT community as such inaction results in fewer, if any, cases or controversies coming before the Supreme Court thereby removing the platform for the Supreme Court to make a broad binding decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act itself (and possibly the overall issue of same sex marriage in general), the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the other legal issues, such as discrimination against same sex bi-national couples, which come “part and parcel” with continued enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act.

It is this blogger’s personal opinion that the United States Supreme Court will find in favor of recognition of same sex marriage, but in what could prove to be a sort of convoluted decision wherein Justices such as Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts find in favor of the right of the States to set policy regarding who can get married within their jurisdiction while the more “liberal” or “civil libertarian” wing of the Court finds in favor of granting same sex couples the right to Federal recognition of a legally solemnized State marriage based more upon a finding that the issue is one of civil rights.

For related information please see: LGBT Visa.

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