Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘gay visa’

5th August 2013

In a previous posting on this blog, the recently released answers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to frequently asked questions regarding same sex immigration petitions were analyzed. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American State Department has released a similar set of answers to FAQs regarding this topic.  To quote directly from the official website of the U.S. State Separtment:

Q: How does the Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision impact immigration law?

A: The Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.   This means that the same sex spouse of a visa applicant coming to the U.S. for any purpose – including work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa.  Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status. [italics added]

As previously discussed on this blog, the fact that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been found unConstitutional by the United States Supreme Court means that an American Citizen, or lawful permant resident, can now petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for imigration benefits for a same sex spouse (or fiance, so long as the petitioner is an American Citizen). However, the US State Department, which is responsible for Consular Processing of visa applications, had yet to make specific comments regarding adjudication of visa application based upon a same sex marriage (or fiance) immigration petition. As can be seen from above, the Department of State has brought their procedures into line with the recent Supreme Court decision.

Of interest to many same sex couples is the issue of jurisdiction as same sex marriages are only recognized by a limited number of US States. The following portion of the aforementioned FAQ focuses on this point:

Q: Do we have to live or intend to live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal in order to qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa?

A: No. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes.  For more information, please review the following page on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) website. [italics added]

As there are a limited umber of U.S. jurisdictions which recognize and solemnize same sex marriage as well as a number of States in which such marriages are forbade, there have been questions among legal professionals as well as same sex couples regarding whether the U.S. Immigration officers and Consular Officers at various U.S. posts abroad would fail to approve visa applications and immigration petitions based upon the fact that an LGBT couple may be married in one State and residing in another. In a previous posting on this blog, the USCIS’s answer to this question rested on the “law of the place where the marriage took place“. Basically, USCIS appears willing to approve an otherwise valid immigration petition based upon a same sex marriage if the same sex marriage is performed in a State which allows such unions. Apparently, the Department of State has set a similar policy, thereby allowing an otherwise valid same sex marriage visa application, based upon an USCIS-approved immigration petition, to be approved. However, there are some jurisdictions around the world which may recognize same-sex unions, but do not necessarily categorize them as “marriages”. In those circumstances the Department of State had the following to say:

Q: I am in a civil union or domestic partnership; will this be treated the same as a marriage?

A: At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for  immigration purposes. [italics added]

Although the above answer appears to be rather straightforward, there is one question, of possibly more significance, that many unmarried same sex couples may be pondering:

Q: I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  We cannot marry in my fiancé’s country. What are our options? Can we apply for a fiancé K visa?

A: You may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé(e) (K) visa.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage.  For information on adjusting status, please review the following page on USCIS’s website:

Since same sex unmarried couples are now permitted to apply for a K-1 visa, it would now appear possible for the LGBT fiance of an American Citizen to apply for a US fiance visa with the intention of marrying in one of those jurisdictions in the United States which recognize same sex marriages.

Another issue which may arise in the context of same sex marriage is the issue of non-immigrant visas (also known as NIVs). These are visa categories which do not confer immigrant status upon those who use them. The Department of State website posted the following information regarding NIVs for same sex married couples:

Q: Can same sex couples now apply for visas in the same classification?

A: Yes. Starting immediately, same-sex spouses and their children are equally eligible for NIV derivative visas.  Same-sex spouses and their children (stepchildren of the primary applicant when the marriage takes place before the child turns 18) can qualify as derivatives where the law permits issuance of the visa to a spouse or stepchild.  In cases where additional documentation has always been required of a spouse applying with a principal applicant, such documentation will also be required in the case of a same-sex spouse… [italics added]

Finally, a point to note for those LGBT couples who are in a situation in which the foreign spouse has children:  

Q: My foreign national spouse has children. Can they also be included with my spouse’s case?

A: Yes, the children of foreign national spouses can be considered “step-children” of the U.S. citizens and can therefore benefit from a petition filed on their behalf in the IR2 category.    In other categories, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriage can qualify as beneficiaries (F2A) or for derivative status (F3, F4, E1-E4, or DV).  You and your spouse must have married before the child turned 18. [itlaics added]

Clearly, the Department of State allows for step-children of Americans or lawful permanent residents to immigrate where the LGBT couple was married prior to the step-child’s 18th birthday. From the information posted on the State Department’s website regarding non-immigrant visas one could infer that an American Citizen’s prospective step-children (i.e. the children of a foreign fiance) may also be eligible to obtain a K-2 visa based upon the bona fide intention of the American Citizen and his or her foreign fiance to marry in the United States.

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29th June 2013

After the landmark decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in which the Court held that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution there has been increasing speculation regarding how this will impact those seeking United States Immigration benefits such as US visas and Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card status). It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, recently commented on this issue, to quote her comments directly from the DHS official website:

“I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits.  I am pleased the Court agreed with the Administration’s position that DOMA’s restrictions violate the Constitution. Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”

Clearly it appears that DHS is in the process of implementing new policies which would comport with the Court’s decision. This is likely to have a tremendous impact upon same-sex bi-national couples. Before the Court handed down their decision it was not possible for most gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) couples to obtain immigration benefits based upon their marital relationship. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriages will receive the same recognition as different-sex mariages in the eyes of federal law the door is now open for LGBT couples to apply for benefits such as a “Green Card” or an immigrant visa (IR-1, CR-1). It may also be possible for same sex bi-national couples who are not yet married to apply for a K-1 fiance visa based upon the couple’s intention to travel to the United States to marry in one of those States (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) that recognize same-sex marriage. That being stated, it is likely that it may take some time to implement proper policies to reflect the new legal reality, but the time is right for same sex bi-national couples to begin researching their options with regard to United States immigration as it appears likely that one day soon a same sex spouse of an American Citizen will receive an immigrant visa based upon the couple’s marital status.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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21st March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Immigration Equality Action Fund Blog is reporting that Americans are calling upon the Department of Homeland Security to change its policy regarding Lawful Permanent Resident status for LGBT spouses of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. To quote directly from the Immigration Equality Action Fund Blog:

In an interview published last night, Immigration Equality executive director Rachel B. Tiven calls on the Department of Homeland Security to stop denying green card applications filed by spouses of LGBT Americans.

Those who are unaware of the issues surrounding the debate for equal immigration benefits for the LGBT community should note that pursuant to the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) the United States Federal government is prohibited from granting immigration benefits to same sex bi-national couples even though such benefits are routinely granted to different-sex couples. Meanwhile, a number of sovereign American States have heeded the call of their citizenry and taken measures which would allow legal recognition for marriages between individuals of the same sex. Notwithstanding that a marriage may be legalized and solemnized by a sovereign US State, such as Massachusetts, for example; the Federal government still will not recognize said marriage pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. To quote further from the Immigration Equality Action Fund Blog:

“It is imperative that the administration stop breaking up families based on a law that it says is unconstitutional,” Tiven told reporter Andrew Harmon. “We’re calling on the Department of Homeland Security to stop denying green card applications for the spouses of American citizens.”

As noted above, the result of continued enforcement of DOMA in an immigration context is the constant and continued partition of bi-national families. It would appear as though proponents of equal LGBT rights are hoping that DHS can take some steps to alleviate what is, for some, an increasingly untenable situation. To quote further from the Immigration Equality Action Fund Blog:

Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) – both important leaders on LGBT and immigration issues in Congress – joined Immigration Equality’s call for a halt to deportations involving legally married spouses. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also weighed in, telling reporters that, ““The recent news of deportations involving legally married gay and lesbian binational couples is heartbreaking.”

This blogger highly encourages readers to click on the above links to learn more about the Immigration Equality Action Fund and the struggle for equal rights in the LGBT community. It should be noted that Representative Jerrold Nadler has been a strong proponent of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), legislation designed to provide immigration benefits to same sex bi-national couples.

There have been many sovereign US States that have shown “true grit” in the struggle for equal LGBT rights, privileges, immunities, and protections. States such as Massachusetts, Iowa, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut as well as the District of Columbia have shown support for the struggle of equal rights for LGBT families. Meanwhile, continued enforcement of the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) keep bi-national same sex couples from attaining equal immigration benefits when compared to their different-sex counterparts.

The issue of same sex marriage and equal rights for same sex couples is something that some have suggested is a divisive issue, but in this blogger’s opinion it need not be. For example, this blogger comes from a State (the State of Kansas) that explicitly forbids same sex marriage (yes, notwithstanding the State of Kansas’s position on same sex marriage this blogger feels that the right to marry whom one chooses is a civil right guaranteed to individuals under the U.S. Constitution that should be granted to those in Kansas as well as everywhere else in the USA, but the following analysis is primarily concerned with the same sex marriage issue in an interstate context). There are some who argue that this means that the State Courts are barred from recognizing same sex marriages legalized in other States. This blogger would argue that a different interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause would allow a State such as Kansas to acknowledge that a legal marriage between two people of the same sex exists in fact in another American jurisdiction (say, Massachusetts, for example). Concurrently, the provisions of a State Constitution may prohibit any further State recognition or execution of a same sex divorce, but such a scenario is certainly better than the current state of affairs where no same sex couples are granted any type of Federal or interstate marital recognition at all. That said, none of these issues has yet to be fully resolved so any analysis remains speculation.

For related information please see: same sex visas.

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31st January 2011

The issue of Federal recognition of same sex marriage is one which remains stuck in this bloggers mind like a splinter. The issue is vexing because the United States Federal government has clearly usurped sovereign State prerogatives on the issue while simultaneously trampling upon individual civil rights to equal protection under the laws of the United States as well as the fundamental Constitutional right to freely and peaceably associate with whomever one wishes to associate with. That said, the issue is, in this blogger’s opinion, best analyzed pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the USA.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) currently prohibits the United States Federal government from recognizing a marriage or civil union between two individuals of the same sex. Most legal scholars approach the issue of same sex marriage and the preclusion of Federal recognition from a civil rights perspective. Although this blogger wholeheartedly agrees that LGBT rights issues do generally fall under the umbrella of civil liberties, the ramifications of DOMA upon the sovereign American States is the most unfortunate aspect of the current state of affairs.

To quote directly from Wikipedia.com:

In Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., marriages for same-sex couples are legal and currently performed.

This is important to note as there are American States which explicitly prohibit the recognition of marriages between two people of the the same sex. Conversely, as noted above, there are currently five (5) states which allow same sex marriage. This has lead to a situation in which there is little interstate uniformity regarding this issue. As their site puts things so succinctly it may be best to quote Wikipedia.com’s entry on this issue further:

There has been much speculation on the clause’s possible application to same-sex marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership laws and cases, as well as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Between 1996 and 2004, 39 states passed their own laws and constitutional amendments, sometimes called “mini DOMAs,” which define marriage as consisting solely of opposite-sex couples. Most of these “mini DOMAs” explicitly prohibit the state from honoring same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. Conversely, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, either legislatively or by state supreme court judgment.

The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on how (if at all) these laws are affected by the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, in August 2007, a federal appeals court held that the clause did require Oklahoma to recognize adoptions by same-sex couples which were finalized in other states.[18]

If the Full Faith and Credit clause is given its traditional interpretation, it has no application to same-sex marriage, and the DOMA legislation is superfluous and even dangerous, as it may lead to a misconstruction of the Full Faith and Credit clause. If a state is required to recognize a same sex marriage, it will be pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause, as was the case with respect to interracial marriages.

The final paragraph of this citation is most notable to this blogger as it is the section in which he is in disagreement. To understand the reasoning behind this blogger’s disbelief in the assertions stated in this Wikipedia.com posting one must first read the actual text of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

It is virtually self-evident, in this author’s opinion, that the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause will compel broad recognition of same sex marriage in the USA. Rather than looking at the issue from a civil rights perspective (which requires lengthy analysis into what are, in this author’s opinion, superfluous issues such as personal or religious feeling regarding same sex marriage which have no place in a reasoned legal analysis of the issue) simply examine the plain language of the Clause itself. The clause explicitly states that Full Faith and Credit SHALL be given to the public RECORDS of every other State.

What does this mean from a practical perspective? To use a hypothetical: two people of the same sex go to the State of Iowa (a jurisdiction which, according to a citation above, both recognizes and solemnizes same sex marriage) and get married. To quote the official Iowa County, Iowa website:

Iowa Vital Records are official registrations of births, deaths and marriages. Certified copies of Vital Records can be obtained from a County Recorder’s office or the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Once an official record is made of a registered same sex marriage does not the Full Faith and Credit Clause operate to compel interstate recognition of such a record? One would think, but there are exceptions to this kind of broad application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause as States which have clear public policies in conflict with foreign State Judgments, Acts, or Records may be permitted to ignore such Judgments, Acts, or Records (foreign judgments always seem to be accorded more preference from an interstate enforcement standpoint).

InterState recognition of same sex marriage, or as this blogger prefers to refer to it: Horizontal Full Faith and Credit of same sex marriage; is not really the main thrust of this post as the more pressing concern for the purposes of this article is Federal recognition of same sex marriage notwithstanding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The interstate implications of some states fully recognizing same sex marriage while other states fail to recognize such unions are interesting topics, but the main issue of this posting is what this blogger refers to as Vertical Full Faith and Credit. Namely, Federal recognition of same sex marriage lawfully solemnized in a sovereign State. Since when was the United States Federal government able to pick and choose which State laws it was willing to recognize? To quote directly from USLegal.com:

The full faith and credit doctrine as applicable to the federal courts in recognizing the records and judicial proceedings of state courts is contained in 28 U.S.C. § 1738.  The full faith and credit rule pertains to recognition by state courts of the records and judicial proceedings of courts of sister States; this includes every court within the United States.  This provision also includes recognition of the records and proceedings of the courts of any territory or any country subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.  By this provision, the federal courts are also bound to give to the judgments of the state courts the same faith and credit that the courts of one State are bound to give to the judgments of the courts of their sister States…

Pursuant to a plain language analysis of the Constitution it is this author’s opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional as it requires the Federal government to disregard the Acts, Records, and Judgments creating same sex marital relationships within the jurisdiction of Sovereign States in direct violation of the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause itself. Although there is a Civil Rights perspective to this issue, the major point that should not be overlooked is that fact that the US Congress is attempting, through enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act, to dictate to the States what shall constitute a valid marriage. In the past, legalization and solemnization of marriage was within the exclusive bailiwick of the State especially as such matters tend to pertain to public health and safety issues.

This has very large practical implications especially for same sex bi-national couples as the Federal government, pursuant to DOMA, cannot grant American family visa benefits to the same sex partner of a US Citizen (notwithstanding the fact that the couple may have solemnized a legally binding marriage within one of the sovereign American States that allows same sex marriages). Hopefully this injustice will be dealt with soon as it is unfortunate that the rights of the States and the people are being disregarded as a result of DOMA’s continued enforcement.

In recent months, efforts have been made to pass legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Bills such as this would mitigate some of the discrimination which is routinely deployed against same sex bi-national families as the language of the proposed bill (and that of those similar to it) would allow for the “permanent partners” of American Citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for US visa benefits in much the same manner as foreign fiancees and spouses of US Citizens and lawful permanent residents. This legislation, and that like it, is a good step in the right direction, but it does not address the myriad legal rights and privileges routinely deprived to same sex couples under the current Federal regime.

For related information please see: Same Sex Partner Visa.

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23rd December 2010

Those who frequently read this web log may have noticed that this author occasionally comments upon the progress of American gaming legislation as recent legislative enactments have greatly altered the online gaming landscape. Although this issue would not seem similar to that of LGBT rights at first blush, there are some commonalities from a legal perspective which were recently noted in an article written by April Gardner for the website casinogamblingweb.com. To quote directly from this article:

US lawmakers took the first step on Saturday towards giving all Americans the same rights and freedoms when the Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Online poker players are hoping this was the first step towards full freedom, and that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act repeal may be next.

The repeal of the policy referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was a significant achievement for proponents of LGBT rights. That said, as noted in a previous posting on this blog, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still continues to act as a barrier to equal immigration rights for same sex bi-national couples as well as LGBT bi-national couples. At one point, it was thought that the Defense of Marriage Act’s provisions might be circumvented in the context of US Immigration through enactment of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), but, alas, this legislation has yet to be enacted. Therefore, there are those who argue that there is still a long way to go in the fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. That said, the article went on to note:

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law is one that Democrats have been pushing hard to repeal for several years. Another of those ill-advised laws on the radar for Liberals is the UIGEA. In recent weeks, Senator Harry Reid has proposed an online poker bill, but that legislation alone would not have overturned the UIGEA.

Although at first glance the UIGEA (the Unlawful  Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would seem to be dissimilar in nature. In fact, these two issues touch upon a very significant issue which seems to be continuously debated in the United States. This issue transcends party ideology: personal freedom. The ability to freely, peaceably, and consensually associate with whomever one chooses is a fundamental right enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many would argue that the law forbidding same sex bi-national couples, even those lawfully married in one of the 5 US States which currently solemnize same sex unions, from obtaining the same immigration rights as different sex couples is self-evidently a violation of the right to equal protection under American law. In this same vein, there are many who argue that Americans should have the ability to choose to participate in online gaming so long as they are above the lawful age to engage in such activity in their jurisdiction and the gaming operation is regulated so as to ensure that games are fair and the gaming operator is solvent. That said, the author of the aforementioned article seems pessimistic about the short term future of legislation designed to regulate and thereby legitimize online gaming:

It is unlikely that online gambling prohibition will be discussed in the closing days of the lame-duck session. For online poker players, however, they can take comfort in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.

The repeal shows that everything is worth the wait, as millions of gay and lesbians exhibited Saturday through tears of joy. It may take a little longer, but those tears of joy will eventually come for the millions of online gamblers in this country as well.

Truly, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was a monumental step forward for advocates of Equal Rights, but the issue of online gaming remains both controversial and complicated in the USA as many different jurisdictional issues arise especially in the context of the internet and World Wide Web. Therefore, it remains to be seen what the US Congress will ultimately decide to do with regard to online gaming, but hopefully the eventual outcome will result in positive benefits for players, operators, and the United States economy as this sector could prove to be an area of job growth for the USA in the coming years.

For related information please see: Online Gaming Law or Same Sex Marriage Visa.

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7th August 2010

This blog frequently discusses topics related to LGBT rights and United States Immigration. At the time of this writing, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) creates a legal bar upon immigration rights for same sex couples as opposed to different-sex couples who may receive US Immigration benefits based upon a marital relations ship (US Marriage Visa) or an intended marital union in the United States (Fiance Visa). In recent months, there have been many developments which are leading many to believe that a repeal of DOMA will likely come soon. In a recent posting on the Immigration Equality blog that author noted a recent California Court decision which upheld same sex couples’ right to marry in the State of California:

In another great victory for LGBT people, Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled today that California’s ban on same sex marriages violates the federal constitution.

“Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”

These are strong words coming from a federal judge and another clear sign that history is on our side. There is no question that this case will be appealed, first to the 9th Circuit, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the decision will be stayed in the interim. This means that even though Judge Vaughn has found that our Constitutional rights have been violated, his decision will no into effect unless and until it is upheld by a higher court.

Because this is a first step in a longer legal battle, there will be no direct benefit to binational couples for now. We’re still reading and digesting the decision and will blog again shortly about its implications. For now, let’s take a moment to celebrate.

In a recent Massachusetts Federal Court decision a Judge held that the Federal government’s failure to recognize a duly formalized same sex marriage in Massachusetts was unconstitutional. However, there will not likely be any practical effect of this decision in the near term as that Judge placed a stay on his Judgment pending appeal. As the above quote noted, there will likely be a stay on this decision, at least for immigration purposes, until a higher court decides the outcome of the case on appeal. That said, the following is quoted from a recent press release from UPI:

“SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 6 (UPI) — Same-sex marriage backers filed court motions Friday urging a judge to allow such marriages in California immediately while his ruling in the case is appealed.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker has said he would issue a ruling on the matter after he reviews written arguments submitted by proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown submitted arguments urging the judge to authorize same-sex marriages during the appeal process. Schwarzenegger noted the state performed about 18,000 same-sex marriages before the practice was banned with the November 2008 voter approval of Proposition 8.

“Government officials can resume issuing such licenses without administrative delay or difficulty,” the governor’s office said in its submission to the court.

Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor in the November election, argued in writing there is “the potential for limited administrative burdens should future marriages of same-sex couples be later declared invalid” but he said “these potential burdens are outweighed” by the constitutional rights Walker spoke of in his ruling that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

Lawyers for Proposition 8 backers argued same-sex marriages performed in California before the case is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court would be at risk of instability.”

Although the recent decision may not have an immediate direct impact on LGBT Immigration rights, if the Judge grants same sex couples the right to marry in California while the case is pending appeal it would provide a large number of couples with an opportunity to solemnize a marital relationship.

How this issue will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen. However, this issue is quickly becoming a major focal point for interpretation of legal doctrines such as Federalism, States’ Rights, and Substantive Due Process. Ultimately, all of the issues associated with same sex marriage and Same Sex Visa Benefits may need to be adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court.

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12th July 2010

This blog frequently discusses issues that are relevant to those who are in same-sex or LGBT relationships seeking United States immigration benefits for their loved ones overseas. In a posting on the blog Immigration Equality the recently handed down decision in a Massachusetts Court case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was discussed. The following is a direct quote from the July 9th posting:

Yesterday a Massachusetts federal district court judge sided with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and with the state of Massachusetts and found that it is unconstitutional for the U.S. federal government to refuse to recognize same sex marriages that are validly entered into in the couple’s state. This is a huge victory and we should all take a moment to celebrate! But, this battle is far from over.

Apparently, this ruling will not have a practical impact in the short term as the Court opted to “stay” the decision until the appeal process is exhausted.   The report went on to analyze the possible outcome should the United States Judicial Branch ultimately find that DOMA is unconstitutional:

If, eventually, the Supreme Court upholds the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional, same sex couples that are validly married, would be able to receive federal benefits, including immigration, based on their marriage. Basically, this would mean that binational couples who live in the handful of states that allow same sex marriage could get immigration benefits, and couples who live in states with mini-DOMAs could not.

Many feel that the main issue in this case is that of States’ Rights. Presently, the United States government does not recognize the legality of a same sex marriage even where such a marriage was validly solemnized pursuant to the laws of a sovereign US state. This tension between the Federal and State power is often an issue in matters involving conflicting state and federal regulations. That said, where such conflict has an adverse impact upon individual rights, equal protection under the law, substantive due process, and Federal benefits, then the issue may be ripe for judicial review.

As the Immigration Equality blog accurately noted, this decision does not mark the end of the pursuit for those seeking equal US immigration rights as, at the time of this writing, those seeking a US family visa based upon an LGBT relationship (sometimes referred to as a same sex visa) still cannot obtain visa benefits notwithstanding the recently promulgated decision.

Although a judicially created solution for same sex couples may not be available for a relatively long period of time, the passage of legislation similar to the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) either within the provisions of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill or as stand alone legislation could create a new family based visa category for “Permanent Partners” of US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.

For those interested in learning more about US Immigration issues for same sex couples in Thai please see: LGBT immigration.

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24th April 2010

Many Americans are aware of the recent legislative changes enacted by the United States Congress with the support of President Obama. Recently, a blogger discussed this legislation:

“Having now accomplished Health Care Reform, it is apparent that President Obama has acquired the momentum and political capital to fuel the leadership necessary to fulfill the next campaign promise, that of  immigration reform.  Why then are our congressional leaders still asserting impossible?”

What is this so-called “impossible” legislative task that this writer is concerned about? Put simply, it is equal immigration rights for those bi-national couples of the same sex. Recently, Congressional Representative Gutierrez introduced a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, but many in the LGBT immigration community are unhappy with the Bill in its current form:

“Rep Gutierrez’s Bill, however, snubbed gay and lesbian couples, much to the upset of the LGBT community and bi-national same-sex couples, by failing to attach UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act, H.R. 1024, S. 424) a U.S.Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws against gay couples seeking spousal/ partner sponsorship for green cards,  as a critical component to his version of comprehensive immigration reform.  Is he thinking that we should not have immigration equality?  Is he going to attach UAFA later in the process? Does he think UAFA should be a stand-alone Bill.”

UAFA, or the Uniting American Families Act, is an important piece of hotly debated legislation in the United States that, if enacted, would provide immigration benefits to the same sex “permanent partners” of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. US Congressman Jerrold Nadler has be a strong proponent of UAFA and immigration rights for the “permanent partners” of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. Exactly what the term “permanent partner” means is left open to further debate, but presently a debate is raging over placing the provisions of UAFA into a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill:

“Nadler asserted that this would be the only way – for UAFA to pass- and that would be via passage with a larger immigration reform bill.  The votes would need to be 217 in the House and at least 51 in the Senate.  Congressman Nadler has led the fight for UAFA and is highly respected by activists and the LGBT community, reputed to be one of the most dedicated in the fight for immigration equality.  His ideas are to be trusted and his leadership followed.”

If Representative Nadler believes that same sex visas for bi-national permanent partners will ultimately come to fruition through use of a broader legislative vehicle, then this author is inclined to believe that this is the truth. However, when that broader legislative action will come about remains to be seen.

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11th November 2009

There are many people throughout the United States who seem more and more unhappy with the current state of gay rights issues. This unhappiness seems particularly acute when discussing the issue of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). Under current United States Federal law same sex marriages are not recognized by the Federal Government. Therefore, United States Immigration benefits based upon marriage cannot be extended to the same-sex partners of US citizens as same sex marriage is not recognized as a “marriage” for purposes of US Immigration.

Many have advocated either the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or the enactment of some federal legislation which would allow for same sex immigration benefits notwithstanding DOMA. A recent example of the latter is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would provide US Immigration benefits to “permanent partners” of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. Most efforts to provide same sex immigration benefits have been in vain which has created frustration in the LGBT community as well as amongst advocates for civil rights.

In recent months there has been talk of repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the US military. Also, the US State Department has issued internal rules granting Immigration benefits, in the form of diplomatic and official passports, to the same sex partners of State Department employees working abroad. Many feel that these are “half measures,” simply designed to placate advocates for LGBT rights.  The following, quoted from this source, sums up the feeling of consternation:

Noticeably absent from this civil rights agenda is the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Apparently a Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic super-majority in the Senate, and a Democratic president in the White House isn’t quite enough to get a repeal passed. Of course, other major issues are confronting the nation, and issues dealing with same-sex marriage often bring with them volatile politics. But, with the prospect of trimmed Democratic majorities in Congress after the 2010 midterm elections, is it really unreasonable for the LGBT community to expect action on DOMA now, as opposed to potentially a decade from now, maybe later? [Emphasis in original]

As can be seen from the above quote, the real issue for many is the repeal of DOMA. This legislation lies at the heart of most legal restrictions placed upon same-sex couples in the United States. Currently, the legality of DOMA is also being weighed in the US Federal Courts, but the outcome is far from certain. The repeal of DOMA is likely to remain a controversial issue in the future. A repeal of these restrictions will likely mark a watershed moment for American Civil Liberties.


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31st October 2009

As reported previously on this blog, HIV is to be taken off of the list of communicable diseases which can cause an Immigrant to be deemed inadmissible to the United States of America. At the time of this writing, anyone who has HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is not admissible to the United States. This means that those infected with the virus must obtain an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility before they will be allowed to enter the United States. Under the new rule, this will no longer be the case.

To quote a document, provided courtesy of AILA, promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services:

As a result of this final rule, aliens will no longer be inadmissible into the United States based solely on the ground they are infected with HIV, and they will not be required to undergo HIV testing as part of the required medical examination for U.S. immigration.

As a result of this rule change, it is highly likely that Embassy mandated medical examinations will be greatly altered as it will no longer be necessary for the Embassy-approved doctors (sometimes referred to as civil surgeons) to test prospective immigrants for HIV.

This rule change reflects the new policy of the United States government regarding HIV. Basically the Center for Disease Control and the authorities at the Department of Homeland Security no longer consider HIV a “communicable” disease as defined in the relevant provisions of  Immigration and Nationality Act. To further quote the aforementioned document:

While HIV infection is a serious health condition, it is not a communicable disease that is a significant public health risk for introduction, transmission, and spread to the U.S. population through casual contact.

Please note that this rule has not taken effect and until it does HIV is still considered a communicable disease in cases involving inadmissibility.

Although many laud the promulgation of this rule, there are those, particularly in the LGBT community who feel that the current Administration is not doing enough to provide immigration benefits to same sex couples. Many view this rule change as a “half measure” designed to placate advocates for gay rights as HIV has a major impact upon the gay and lesbian community.

Although this rule change will effect those with HIV who wish to enter the USA, it does not effect same-sex bi-national couples who cannot obtain US Immigration benefits for a foreign partner based upon the current federal laws which do not recognize same-sex marriage. There are many who feel that the rescission of this rule regarding HIV infected immigrants falls short of full immigration equality for all.

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