Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘RFMA’

9th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some media outlets are noting the comparatively positive aspects of the economies which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to provide further insight to the reader it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com:

JAKARTA—Investors and companies should look to Southeast Asia as they seek shelter from the world-wide markets meltdown, said the secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Surin Pitsuwan noted that Southeast Asia is growing, it is nestled between India and China and it dealt with its own scary debt problems over a decade ago, making it an attractive alternative amid the global volatility triggered by concerns about how the U.S. and Europe will deal with their debt, as well as whether the U.S. economy will slide into recession again. “If they are looking for a safer haven, this is it,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “The Chinese and the Japanese that are worried will want to look around for better prospects for their investments and this is one of the hopeful regions…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this well written article by Eric Bellman in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the ASEAN region as a whole, and the component jurisdictions therein, have shown tremendous economic strength in recent months. Meanwhile, these jurisdictions are believed by some to have substantial economic potential in the future. There has been some discussion in recent weeks regarding the prospect of a possible ASEAN visa not unlike the Schengen system currently employed in Europe. Whether such a program will ultimately be implemented remains to be seen. In any case, there is certainly strong evidence to support the inference that the ASEAN jurisdictions will be increasingly important in a geopolitical and economic context moving forward.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality in the United States, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States appears to be refusing recognition of same sex marriages, even those legalized and/or solemnized in an American State jurisdiction. To provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of MSNBC at MSN.com:

For all those same-sex newlyweds in New York, Lawrence S. Jacobs has a message: Enjoy the Champagne and the honeymoon, but expect no gifts from the IRS. Jacobs, a lawyer in Washington, specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples — and in delivering the bad news that their unions aren’t legal in the eyes of the IRS, a policy that will cost them time and money during tax season.Same-sex couples in Washington, which last year legalized gay marriage, must fill out a federal return to make calculations required for their D.C. joint return. But then they must set that work aside and fill out separate federal returns because the IRS doesn’t regard their union as legal, Jacobs says. “You just spent decades getting your marriage recognized, and now the feds say, ‘No, you’re not,’” says Jacobs, who as a partner in a same-sex marriage has firsthand experience of the problem.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to view this story in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the issue of same sex marriage has been a “hot button” issue in recent months as Senate Judiciary hearings have recently been held to scrutinize the Constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in light of proposed replacement legislation in the form of the bill colloquially referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA). In an immigration context, the issue of federal recognition of same sex marriage is of substantial importance since agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and each and every US Embassy or US Consulate overseas is legally compelled to disregard a same sex marriage when adjudicating family visa matters pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, bi-national same sex couples cannot obtain a travel document such as a K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile, there is some hope that this current legal discrimination will be overcome as some US Courts have ruled that DOMA’s non-recognition, at least at the federal level, of State licensed same sex marriage is Un-Constitutional. Concurrently, the United States Bankruptcy Courts have begun allowing joint bankruptcies for same sex married couples.

It remains to be seen whether same sex couples will ever be accorded the same benefits as their different-sex counterparts in the eyes of American law, but the overall situation appears to be gradually improving.

For related information please see: Americans Resident Abroad.

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6th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that further support for the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) may be forthcoming from membership of the United States Senate. To quote directly from the official website of The Washington Independent, WashingtonIndependent.com:

Long a holdout in signing on to back the Respect for Marriage Act, Sen. Amy Klobuchar indicated this week she’ll sponsor the bill, which would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Klobuchar is the last Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to back the measure after Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin expressed his support in April. Fellow Democrat Al Franken was an original sponsor of the act…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced a “Respect for Marriage Act” counterpart piece of legislation in the United States House of Representatives where there is some doubt as to the ultimate fate of the bill notwithstanding the fact that it supports fundamental notions connected to States’ Rights pursuant to the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Meanwhile, there is also a compelling argument that support for the RFMA as a replacement for the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is simultaneously supportive of notions related to Equal Protection and natural law. How all of these issues will ultimately be sorted out by US Courts and/or the American legislature remains to be seen, but following the debate generates a great deal of intriguing insight into the evolving nature of the United States Constitution.

Meanwhile, in news related to the jurisdictions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); it recently came to this blogger’s attention that some international media outlets have reported upon the Russian perspective of recent ASEAN meetings. In order to provide further particulars it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru:

The dialogue between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is actively developing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said following a ministerial meeting in Indonesia. Experts cannot fully agree with this, saying that the sides have yet to completely activate their potential for both bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further from this insightful article.

Although this blog attempts to primarily focus upon issues pertaining to ASEAN from an American context the activities of any of the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the ASEAN region is of compelling interest to those who follow geopolitics and economics with any degree of frequency. How negotiations regarding the future structure of ASEAN will play out is anyone’s guess. Concurrently, the confluence of economic forces at play in the ASEAN region could yield trade opportunities with the potential for future exponential growth in real terms. As a result, an understanding of the unique nature of ASEAN and her component jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) could provide real insight to those looking to conduct business in Southeast and Greater Asia.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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3rd August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking steps to encourage entrepreneurial immigration to the United States of America. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the DHS, DHS.gov:

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas today outlined a series of policy, operational, and outreach efforts to fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability or who otherwise can create jobs, form startup companies, and invest capital in areas of high unemployment. “The United States must continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world to invest their talents, skills, and ideas to grow our economy and create American jobs,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Today’s announcements will help our nation fully realize the potential of existing immigration laws.” “Current immigration laws support foreign talent who will invest their capital, create new jobs for American workers, and dedicate their exceptional talent to the growth of our nation’s economy,” said Director Mayorkas. “USCIS is dedicated to ensuring that the potential of our immigration laws is fully realized, and the initiatives we announce today are an important step forward.” These actions mark the six-month anniversary of Startup America, a White House-led initiative to reduce barriers and accelerate growth for America’s job-creating entrepreneurs…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above in order to read this article in detail.

In previous postings on this blog it has been noted that travel documents such as the EB-5 visa can be a satisfactory tool for those wishing to travel to the United States for the purposes of investing and residence. It should be noted that there are other employment based visa categories such as the EB-2 visa, the EB-3 visa, the EB-1 visa, and the EB-4 visa which may be used by individuals who find themselves in differing factual circumstances. Meanwhile, visas such as the L-1 visa and the E-2 visa are often used by non-immigrants who wish to travel to the United States of America for the purpose of either undertaking specialized employment or investing in a small business therein. That stated, those seeking immigration benefits are well advised to contact an American immigration lawyer since issues associated with American immigration can be legally complex and the process can sometimes prove cumbersome for those unaccustomed to dealing with matters pending before various agencies within the American federal bureaucracy.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that an attorney for the United States government has filed a response in a case involving a New York woman suing the government to have her same sex marriage recognized. To quote directly from a posting by Mark Hamblett for the New York Law Journal on the website Law.com:

Congress has fired back in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. In a motion to dismiss in the Southern District, former solicitor general Paul D. Clement and his legal team argue that the act, 1 U.S.C. §7, is entitled to a presumption of constitutionality, and that U.S. Supreme Court precedent holds that an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage does not offend the equal protection clause. The motion came in Windsor v. United States, 10-cv-8435, which was brought by Edith Schlain Windsor…In his papers yesterday, Mr. Clement said that rational basis review, not heightened scrutiny, is the appropriate standard in judging the constitutionality of the statute and §3 “easily” passes that less exacting standard. In support of that view, he argues that DOMA does not infringe on the fundamental right to marriage, that “same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right” and that “DOMA implicates federal benefits, not the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Under the rational basis test, Mr. Clement said, Congress could have acted rationally “in the face of the unknown consequences of a proposed novel redefinition of the foundational social institution,” and it could have acted rationally to “protect the public fisc” in the balance it strikes in allocating federal burdens and benefits, and providing “consistency in eligibility for federal benefits based on marital status.” Congress also could have acted rationally “to avoid creating a social understanding that begetting and rearing children is not inextricably bound up with marriage” and to “foster marriages that provide children with parents of both sexes.”

This blogger recommends that readers click upon the hyperlinks above to read this article in detail as it is very enlightening about this case and the issues associated therewith.

The case noted above is interesting insofar as the underlying same sex marriage appears to have been legalized in Canada as opposed to another United States jurisdiction. How this fact will color a final adjudication remains to be seen, but it could have an adverse impact upon the outcome of the case as Full Faith and Credit issues pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution may not be relevant under the circumstances. Frequent readers may recall that in an immigration context the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” precludes immigration benefits such as the K-1 visa, the CR-1 visa, or the IR-1 visa from same sex bi-national couples even if they have been married in an American jurisdiction which legalizes and/or solemnizes same sex marriages. Legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) would ameliorate this discrimination, but such legislation has yet to see enactment.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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30th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that representatives from the jurisdictions which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to meet in September. Further, the Philippine DFA has apparently commented upon these developments. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website ABS-CBNNews.com:

MANILA, Philippines – A team of maritime legal experts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is scheduled to meet in Manila in September to begin talks on maritime territorial issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday. This is part of the preventive diplomacy approach wherein ASEAN experts will determine disputed from non-disputed waters, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said. “The experts will give a concept paper to determine the zone of peace and cooperation and let them discuss it, assess and hopefully support it. We will present it to the ASEAN and hopefully China will hear it,” he added…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this insightful article.

There are many who have speculated that the ASEAN region could one day see a single visa system similar to the Schengen system utilized in certain countries of Europe. However, this development remains to be seen. Meanwhile, discussions regarding the tensions which have recently arisen with respect to the South China Sea area have sort of been “tabled” until the upcoming meeting in Manila. Hopefully, this situation evolves into something that is beneficial for all of the ASEAN countries and the Greater Asian region as a whole.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality it recently came to this blogger’s attention that a venerated publication has noted recent shifts in American attitude regarding same sex marriage. To quote directly from the official website of The Economist magazine, Economist.com

[W]hen National Journal polled political “insiders” this month, it found a majority of Democratic politicos, lobbyists and strategists in favour of making gay marriage legal. No less telling, a majority of their Republican counterparts, while continuing to oppose gay marriage, thought their party should just ignore the issue. That might make electoral sense. Since it is the young who are most relaxed about gay marriage, standing in its path might cost the Republicans dear in the future. The notion of denying gays the spousal rights available to others makes little sense to a generation that sees marriage at least as much as a union of soul-mates as a formal structure for child-rearing…That may be why Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who ran for the presidency in 2008 and may yet do so again, has warned fellow Republicans to “get the heck out of people’s bedrooms”…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read further from this insightful article by Lexington.

Frequent readers of this blog may have noted that the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) noted above was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Representative Jerrold Nadler. Representative Nadler is also the sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which, if enacted, would remedy the current discrimination faced by same sex bi-national couples who cannot receive visa benefits such as the CR-1 visa, the IR-1 visa, or the K-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts notwithstanding that they may have a valid State licensed same sex marriage.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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21st July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that multiple media outlets are reporting upon the recent Senate hearings discussing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide sufficient insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Lez Get Real, LezGetReal.com:

Al Franken looks bored. That is not surprising. Committee hearings are rather boring. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been hearing evidence both for and against repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. While the hearing heard testimony about the financial and symbolic damage that DOMA does to couples, it is unlikely that the Respect for Marriage Act will get anywhere in the House where the Republicans will ignore it. Heading up the push for the RFMA is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. When DOMA first came in, Senator Leahy voted for it, but a decade and a half later, he has changed his mind and is pushing to end it. He has also hailed the decision by President Barack Obama to support the repeal of DOMA…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this interesting story. This blogger must admit that he was rather pleasantly surprised by the questioning posed by Senator Al Franken which can be viewed by clicking on the relevant links above.

Those unfamiliar with the currently unfolding debate involving DOMA should note that that legislation in its present form precludes those in a same sex marriage (even one solemnized and/or legalized by one of the sovereign American States) from receiving similar benefits compared to those in a different-sex marriage. For example, a same sex bi-national couple is unable to obtain visa benefits such as the K-1 visa, the IR-1 visa, or the CR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile there are many other federal benefits that are not generally accorded to same sex partners. In order to provide further elucidation on these points it is necessary to quote directly from The New Civil Rights Movement website, TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com:

Immigration for Bi-​National Couples. Nearly 26,000 same-​sex couples in the United States are bi-​national couples who could be forced to separate because they cannot participate in green-​card and accelerated citizenship mechanisms offered to non-​citizen spouses of American citizens…There are 581,300 same-​sex couples in the United States, including 50,000 to 80,000 legally married same-​sex and another 85,000 who are in civil unions or registered domestic partnerships. Approximately 20% of same-​sex couples are raising nearly 250,000 children, and DOMA deprives them of the legal and social protections being married offers. Additionally, almost one-​fourth of same-​sex partners are people of color, over 7% of individuals in same-​sex couples are veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and same-​sex couples live in every congressional district and in almost every county in the United States…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click through the hyperlinks noted above to read this very insightful article in full.

It should be noted that in the United States House of Representatives legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) have been introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler in order to provide some sort of remedy to the current predicament faced by LGBT couples. As noted in the first excerpt quoted there is pessimism regarding the reaction of Republican legislators to the aforementioned proposed legislation. That stated, there are significant States’ Rights implications of these issues especially in light of the language regarding Full Faith and Credit in the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, speculation regarding willful ignorance of issues pertaining to DOMA and the RFMA by the United States House of Representative may ultimately prove unfounded although vigilance may still be necessary in the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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23rd April 2011

Much to her credit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once declared:

“Gay rights are human rights.”

Although this blogger may not have personally agreed with every one of the opinions espoused by Mrs. Clinton over the years, he can at least state that she has been a zealous and effective advocate, where possible, for the rights of the LGBT community. However, this blogger might add that the statement quoted above could be construed as incomplete.  In order to elucidate why this statement may be incomplete this blogger would need to quote directly from a recent posting on the website Lez Get Real:

Sen. Al Franken is the newest co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last week that would give binational same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act is authored by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and is sponsored by 18 other Democrats. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, couples in which one partner is not a citizen do not have any right under current federal law.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced similar legislation in the United States House of Representatives. To continue by quoting an interesting question raised in the previously cited posting on Lez Get Real:

DOMA’s repeal will enable gays and lesbians – same-sex spouses – to sponsor foreign spouses for green cards so why do we need both bills before an unfriendly house at the same time?

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read the full story on the website cited above in order to gain further insight and perspective into this posting.

The question above raises a great many issues that are both complex and, at times, controversial; but go to the heart of the current struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans under the law of the United States of America.  Getting back to Mrs. Clinton’s remark: it is perhaps incomplete because it fails to take into consideration the rights of the Several States. The United States Constitution is composed of 50 co-equal sovereign States as well as a Federal government which has enumerated powers to perform certain functions while reserving the residual inalienable rights to the States and the People respectively. One of the rights which the States have always reserved unto themselves is the right to legalize and/or solemnize a marriage within their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding this fact, the United States Federal government decided to pass legislation referred to colloquially as The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). By doing so, they rode roughshod over the rights of the States to make decisions regarding the intra-State definition of marriage and how State sanctioned marriages between two people of the same sex would be treated by other States (including the Federal government which is a separate sovereign from the 50 States), but at that time this was not readily apparent due to the fact that States had yet to change the law regarding what constitutes a marriage.

To shed more light upon these issues it may be best to quote directly from an extremely insightful article on the subject of Full Faith and Credit by Justice Robert H. Jackson and posted on the website, RobertHJackson.org:

By other articles of the Constitution our forefathers created a political union among otherwise independent and sovereign states. By other provisions, too, they sought to integrate the economic life of the country. By the full faith and credit clause they sought to federalize the separate and independent state legal systems by the overriding principle of reciprocal recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. It was placed foremost among those measures(n69) which would guard the new political and economic union against the disintegrating influence of provincialism in jurisprudence, but without aggrandizement of federal power at the expense of the states.

To quote the Full Faith and Credit Clause directly:

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.

Some have discussed the issue of Full Faith and Credit at length with this blogger and cite the quotation above noting that Congress does have the power to prescribe laws regarding the “Effect” of State legislation. This blogger would concur with such an assessment, but the current provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) do not merely regulate the Effect of duly solemnized and legalized same sex marriage in the States which allow such unions, but instead DOMA makes such legislation wholly INEFFECTIVE because that law simply refuses to recognize the validity of same sex unions. In this blogger’s opinion this is clearly violative of the U.S. Constitution as true Full Faith and Credit has not been accorded to same sex marriages legalized within those sovereign States.

In Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in the case of Youngstown Steel & Tube Co. v. Sawyer the following framework was created for analyzing executive action:

In determining whether the executive has authority, there are three general circumstances:

  1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, the President’s authority is at its greatest.
  2. When the President acts in the absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority. When this is the case, the test depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.
  3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, the authority of the President is at its lowest.

This blogger asks that readers click on the hyperlinks above to understand this case further.

To continue analyzing this issue: it is this blogger’s opinion that States’ Rights issues in connection with Full Faith and Credit could be analyzed in a similar manner to the first prong of the analysis used by Justice Jackson to adjudicate Presidential authority. When the Sovereign States act pursuant to an express or implied authorization of their legislatures or pursuant to the will of the People (ex. a State referendum), then shouldn’t the greatest amount of Full Faith and Credit be accorded to the laws created therefrom? Why does the Federal government get to override sovereign prerogatives clearly reserved to the States and the People, respectively? Clearly, from the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause Congress can make rules regarding the regulation of the Effect of such legislation on other States which do not have similar prerogatives, but, in this blogger’s opinion, the Federal government simply cannot unilaterally overrule, either preemptively or after the fact, State prerogatives simply by citing their power to regulate the Effect of such prerogatives.

To get back to the issue of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) vs. repeal of DOMA (either outright or through a statute similar to the Respect for Marriage Act). In this blogger’s opinion the reason that both of these bills are on the floor stems from the inherent tensions which arise as a result of the fact that the USA uses a federal system within her Constitution providing concurrent jurisdiction for 1 Federal government as well as 50 State sovereigns. Institutions within government, especially the US Federal government, are often loathe to give up power. By recognizing that refutation of marriages solemnized and legalized within sovereign State jurisdiction is outside of their bailiwick the Federal government could be construed to have conceded to a practical loss of authority on such issues (which this blogger believes that they do not have to begin with).

Concurrently, there are sound political reasons for having both bills out there on the floor of the Federal legislature. One, it provides a better chance of seeing at least some progress on this issue. If a DOMA repeal is not possible within this session, but passage of UAFA can occur, why not take it? At the very least passage of UAFA could lead to reunification of same sex bi-national couples who are geographically separated due to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, this blogger would argue that such a strategy is sound, but those within the LGBT should not lose sight of the ultimate goal: full equality under the law. IF UAFA can be secured along the way, all the better, but mere passage of that legislation should not be viewed as the end of the struggle.

To sum up, the issues associated with accordance of Full Faith and Credit to same sex marriages solemnized and legalized by a sovereign State with appropriate jurisdiction are myriad and few, if any, have been resolved, but they continue to be some of the most interesting issues to be currently debated in the realm of U.S. Constitutional law. In conclusion, although it is not debatable in this blogger’s mind that Gay Rights are Human Rights. Perhaps Gay Rights are States’ Rights as well?

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa.

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16th April 2011

Those who read this blog with any degree of frequency may have noticed that the administration of this resource considers the issue of same sex marriage; and Federal recognition thereof, to be one of, if not the, foremost pending political and legal issues of the age. This opinion is based upon the fact that currently discriminatory Federal policies regarding recognition of properly solemnized and legalized State marriages between same sex couples are clearly operating in violation of long held Constitutional notions regarding State Sovereignty, Federalism, Separation of Powers, Full Faith and Credit, and Equal Protection.

Bearing the above in mind, it should be noted that there are legislators in Washington D.C. who seem committed to the cause of Equal Rights for the LGBT Community. To quote directly from a post on the website ImmigrationEqualityActionFund.org, apparently authored by Steve Ralls (Contact Details: 202-347-7007, sralls@immigrationequality.org):

Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Honda (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) announced the re-introduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). This overdue legislation would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their permanent partners for legal residency in the United States, a right currently enjoyed only by married heterosexuals under immigration law. Because the U.S. does not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their children as families, many same-sex binational couples are torn apart. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also introduced UAFA today in the Senate.

In previous postings on this blog, the efforts of Representative Jerrold Nadler in support of the LGBT Community and same sex bi-national couples have been noted and Representative Nadler’s current reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is simply one more example of this legislator’s continuing dedication to the cause of Equal Rights for the LGBT community. On a related note, it was recently pointed out that Representative Nadler is also a proponent of the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” (RFMA) which would provide Federal recognition for same sex marriages solemnized and legalized in a sovereign State.

At the time of this momentous event this blogger would ask all interested parties in matters pertaining to Liberty, States Rights, Civil Liberties, and Personal Freedom to take heed of the current events involved in the struggle to obtain equal protection under the law for the LGBT community as a whole as well as same sex bi-national couples who are currently separated due to the current state of American Immigration law. On that point, it should be noted that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently attempted to put policies in place to halt deportations of foreign same sex partners of American Citizens. It would appear as though USCIS’s policy was aimed at providing some relief, akin to that once accorded to individuals impacted by the so-called “Widow’s Penalty,” to those who are currently subjected to Federal non-recognition of same sex marriages, even those lawfully solemnized and legalized in a sovereign US State,  pursuant to what are clearly Unconstitutional provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). That said, as of the time of this writing it is this blogger’s understanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has rescinded USCIS’s hold on such deportations thereby allowing the same sex bi-national spouse, even if the underlying marriage was solemnized and legalized in one of the Several States, to be deported.

The current discriminatory practices, pertaining to the LGBT community, on the part of the United States government are so pervasive that even first-year law students are aware of the issue. The current legal discrimination faced by a same sex bi-national couple seeking immigration benefits in much the same manner as their different-sex counterparts is so noticeable that even those with only an elemental grasp of the dynamics of United States law can discern many of the issues. To quote directly from a blog post titled Why Denying Homosexuals the Right to Marry is Completely Unconstitutional, authored by Sarah McCarthy on the site My Dog Ate My Blog:

Our country (as I’ve learned over the past week) essentially works like this: states are presumed to have all the power. Our founding fathers were most worried about tyrannical government, and hence wanted to give individual states the power to govern themselves and make their own laws in almost every situation. Hence, in the U.S., we really do have 50 different sets of law governing 50 different states.

Some of these 50 States have opted to use their lawmaking powers to provide marital benefits to same sex couples wishing to marry within their jurisdiction. The administration of this blog would strongly suggest that readers click on the hyperlinks noted above to read more from the above cited posting.  As noted by Ms. McCarty above, pursuant to the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, those powers not specifically enumerated to accrue to the Federal government are to be reserved to the States and the People respectively. Therefore, pursuant to the explicit language of the 10th Amendment and the implications present throughout the Constitution as a whole inherent State rights, such as the right to marry those within the jurisdiction of a given State, are generally considered to be beyond the bailiwick of the Federal government.

Even though legislative initiatives may ultimately prove to be effective for the LGBT community in securing some of the rights, privileges, and immunities associated with marriage it is this blogger’s opinion that only through full repeal of DOMA by the US Congress or the overturning of that legislation on Constitutional grounds by the US Supreme Court can the issue be laid to rest. In this blogger’s opinion, it is especially desirable that a “case or controversy,” such as that which recently arose in Massachusetts Federal Court, be brought before the United States Supreme Court as only that body has the authority, and possibly expertise, to delineate the application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause with regard to interstate vs. State-Federal recognition of same sex marriages.

There are some who have raised the argument that the same sex marriages which are legal in certain jurisdiction are only legal as a result of judicial fiat. However, this blogger would argue that, especially in the case of Massachusetts, there are strong indications that there is a political will manifesting itself in favor of same sex marriages, at least within that jurisdiction. To support this claim it may be best to quote directly from an article written by Pam Belluck and published by the New York Times on June 14, 2007:

Same-sex marriage will continue to be legal in Massachusetts, after proponents in both houses won a pitched months-long battle on Thursday to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“In Massachusetts today, the freedom to marry is secure,” Governor Deval Patrick said after the legislature voted 151 to 45 against the amendment, which needed 50 favorable votes to come before voters in a referendum in November 2008.

The administration of this blog strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to read this story in detail. Clearly, there are those within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who support equal marital rights for same sex couples. However, Federal recognition of same sex unions remains to be seen. Hopefully, through continued action on the part of legislators such as those mentioned above the notions of Equal Protection under the law and State sovereignty will be upheld to the benefit of all American families.

For more information please see: Same Sex Visa or same sex marriage.

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31st March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued instructions to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to dispense with the hold on deportations of same sex spouses of United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents which was announced approximately 2 days ago. To quote directly from an article posted on the Advocate.com entitled Official: No Hold On Gay Immigration Cases:

Wednesday morning USCIS press secretary Christopher S. Bentley told The Advocate that the agency had received legal guidance to lift the hold it had issued Monday. The guidance was issued in the form of written communications from the Office of the General Counsel at Department of Homeland Security (USCIS is a component of DHS).

Those interested in reading more about this information are highly encouraged to click on the hyperlinks immediately preceding the quotation to learn more.

Clearly, officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) were attempting to provide some relief to those in the LGBT community in the USA with their same sex bi-national partners who are stuck in the currently limbo-like immigration system, as it pertains to same sex marriages. The question this blogger has is: why all of this bureaucratic runaround? There is a clear venue for resolving this issue: the United States Supreme Court, but it would seem as though the administration would like solve this issue through internal bureaucratic rule making and unilateral executive actions, but this is not the way law is made and this is not the legal way of effecting change in situations such as the one currently facing the LGBT community. Even a Supreme Court decision on this issue is unlikely to be straightforward as there are many aspects of the Full Faith and Credit Clause which come up in the context of interstate recognition of same sex marriage. However, the decision of the Supreme Court, in this blogger’s opinion, on the issue of FEDERAL recognition of same sex marriages legalized and solemnized in the sovereign States is likely to produce an outcome whereby an avenue would be created to allow same sex bi-national couples to receive immigration benefits of the same quality as those granted to different sex bi-national couples.

The announcement from USCIS on Monday about placing a “hold” on deportations of same sex partners of US Citizens and Permanent Residents came as a relief to many in the United States who may only be subject to deportation due to the onerous (and possibly UnConstitutional) provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) since some same sex bi-national couples have legalized and solemnized a valid same sex marriage in one of the 6 States (along with the District of Columbia) that allows same sex marriage. The only thing precluding Federal recognition of same sex marriages performed within the jurisdiction of the sovereign States which recognize such unions is the questionably Constitutional so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) which was promulgated and enacted under the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.

In a recent memorandum from the Attorney General (Eric Holder) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives it was noted that the President’s administration has taken the position that same sex married couples ought to be granted the benefit of so-called “strict scrutiny” review from the Supreme Court and that the administration would discontinue in prosecuting DOMA cases against LGBT couples. This blogger has noted that such a position may not be beneficial to the overall cause of equal immigration rights as failure to get a “case or controversy” before the United States Supreme Court could lead to a situation in which this complex legal issue is not adjudicated by the Highest Court in the USA and therefore remains in the “limbo” in which this issue currently continues to languish. The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement further shows that until the provisions of DOMA, which preclude Federal recognition of same sex marriage, are overturned the position of the married LGBT community (at least in the eyes of the law and the immigration authorities) will remain precarious.

One point in the above cited article was of particular interest to this blogger. The following passage was quoted from the aforementioned article:

Bentley declined to release any of the written documents at this time, saying it was privileged communication. He emphasized that the official policy itself within DHS had never changed.

What PRIVILEGE!!!! So now the United States government, in the form of the Department of Homeland Security, invokes privilege (a legal principle generally reserved for individual natural persons when dealing with the US government) to keep their own policy memorandum regarding this issue secret? Why the secrecy? Why all of the pomp and circumstance about how important the administration’s memo was to the LGBT community when in reality it would appear to have done nothing substantive for the cause of LGBT equal rights and might have even placed the LGBT community in a less favorable position compared to their position prior to the administration’s memo to the Speaker of the House? So the Department of Homeland Security is claiming privilege when communicating with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), an American agency under DHS jurisdiction. Does anyone find it strange that the United States government now claims that civilian inter-agency memos regarding official policy which pertains to Americans and their families are privileged? It was this blogger’s belief that the United States governmental authorities are servants of the people and therefore required to provide transparency in their policy making endeavors especially when such policy making can impact a wide spectrum of the United States Citizenry and their families.

Clearly, the struggle to secure equal immigration rights for the LGBT community has yet to be won, but for those interested in this issue it is clear that there may be a long campaign to see equal treatment of same sex bi-national couples under the law of the United States of America. This blogger and this blog will continue to monitor this important and interesting issue.

Another method to gain equal immigration rights for same sex bi-national couples is through passage of legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would grant same sex bi-national couples the benefit of applying for an immigrant visa for a “permanent partner” thereby circumventing the immigration restrictions imposed by DOMA. Federal legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced such legislation repeatedly in an effort to provide some kind of relief to those same sex bi-national couples who continue to be denied equal access to family immigration benefits. As of the time of this writing, Mr. Nadler has gone so far as to openly call for a repeal of DOMA and the promulgation of the Respect for Marriage Act a piece of legislation which would restore Federal recognition of State licensed marriage and restore, at least in part, the rights of same sex married couples who merely seek equal protection under the law.

For related information please see: same sex immigration.

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