Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Same Sex Bi-National Couples’

26th July 2013

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a new set of answers to frequently asked questions stemming from the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In previous postings on this blog the fact that lawful permanent residents and American Citizens with same-sex spouses can now file for immigration benefits for their same sex spouse has been discussed at length. That said, USCIS discussed this issue in their recently issued FAQ release, to quote directly from the USCIS website:

Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa?
A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage. [italics added]

As previously pointed out on this blog, the ability of American Citizens to file for immigration benefits for a same-sex foreign spouse is a fairly clear cut result of the recent Supreme Court decision finding Section 3 of DOMA unConstituional. It should be noted that the USCIS seems to also imply that a K3 visa would also now be a possibility for same sex couples as it could be construed to be an “applicable accompanying application”. However, an issue that was not so clearly dealt with by the Supreme Court’s decision pertains to the K-1 visa (US fiance visa). As Fiance visas are, by  definition, not based upon a marriage, but an intended marriage; further clarification from USCIS on these types of visas post-DOMA is considered by some to be quite helpful. To quote further from the aforementioned USCIS FAQ section:

Q2. I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex.  Can I file a fiancé or fiancée petition for him or her?
A2. Yes.  You may file a Form I-129F.  As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for marriage. [italics added]

This clarification from USCIS regarding the fiance visa in the context of same sex marriage, while helpful, is slightly qualified by the next section of the same FAQ page:

Q3: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?
A3: Yes, you can file the petition. In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward. [italics added]

Clearly, the US fiance visa is now a viable option for same sex couples with a bona fide intention to marry in those jurisdictions of the United States which recognize same sex marriage. Since the jurisdiction of the celebration of the intended marriage is USCIS’s primary concern it would appear that a K1 visa itself will be a possibility for same sex couples in the future. However, it would appear that some ancillary immigration benefits may or may not be available at this time for some same sex bi-national couples depending upon the unique residency circumstances of those couples.

Of further interest to some same sex couples will likely be the fact that there are benefits for the foreign same sex spouse of an American Citizen with respect to naturalization:

Q8. Can same-sex marriages, like opposite-sex marriages, reduce the residence period required for naturalization?
A8. Yes.  As a general matter, naturalization requires five years of residence in the United States following admission as a lawful permanent resident.  But, according to the immigration laws, naturalization is available after a required residence period of three years, if during that three year period you have been living in “marital union” with a U.S. citizen “spouse” and your spouse has been a United States citizen.  For this purpose, same-sex marriages will be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages. [italics added]

Therefore, the same sex spouse of an American Citizen will be treated the same way as the opposite sex spouse of an American for purposes of obtaining US Citizenship based upon the couple’s marriage and lawful permanent residence obtained thereby. Finally, of further note in this recently issued USCIS FAQ page relates to the I-601 waiver process:

Q9. I know that the immigration laws allow discretionary waivers of certain inadmissibility grounds under certain circumstances.  For some of those waivers, the person has to be the “spouse” or other family member of a U.S. citizen or of a lawful permanent resident.  In cases where the required family relationship depends on whether the individual or the individual’s parents meet the definition of “spouse,” will same-sex marriages count for that purpose?
A9.Yes.   Whenever the immigration laws condition eligibility for a waiver on the existence of a “marriage” or status as a “spouse,” same-sex marriages will be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages. [italics added]

Waivers of inadmissibility can be difficult to obtain under certain circumstances as they are, by definition, a discretionary waiver. However, one major hurdle for many same-sex bi-national couples in the US immigration sphere has been cast aside by the comendable decision of the United States Supreme Court. USCIS deserves comendation as well for their efforts to quickly and decisively implement policies which bring immigration regulations in line with changes in the law.

Readers are encouraged to read the USCIS website and the FAQ section quoted above to find out further details regarding immigration regulations pertaining to same sex couples.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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25th June 2013

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the United States Supreme Court is poised to hand down decisions in two cases in which the question of Federal recognition of same sex marriage is at issue. The first case involves one Edith Windsor, a woman from New York who was compelled to pay 363,000 United States Dollars after her same sex spouse, one Thea Spyer, died. Notwithstanding the fact that Spyer and Windsor were legally married, the fact that said marriage was apparently recognized under the laws of the State of New York, and the fact that a different-sex couple in the same situation would likely have been accorded a tax deduction regarding such estate taxes the United States government fails to recognize the couple’s marriage pursuant to the provisions of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and therefore Mrs. Windsor was not granted similar tax benefits as compared to a different-sex widow. Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court is also expected to hand down a ruling regarding the Constitutionality of a ballot initiative called Proposition 8 in the State of California which made same sex marriage illegal. This ballot measure followed closely upon the heels of a Court decision in that State which called for the legalization of gay marriage.

Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act reads as follows:

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

The upshot of this provision is that the United States Federal government refuses to recognize same sex marriages even where the marriage was legalized, solemnized, and/or celebrated in a State which explicitly recognizes such unions. Many scholars and experts on the Supreme Court theorize that the Court may issue a narrow opinion in the two cases cited above, but that the Court may also strike down section 3 of DOMA thereby requiring, or so it could be inferred, that the United States Federal goverment recognize such marriages and accord them the same benefits as different sex couples. This would be something of a narrow decision because many feel that section two of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) may not be struck down in these decisions. Section 2 of DOMA reads as follows:

“No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.”

Should the Supreme Court hand down a relatively narrow opinion in these cases and should they strike down only Section 3 of DOMA (which should not necessarily be viewed as a foregone conclusion), then it seems logical to assume that the practical outcome would be that same sex couples could be only accorded benefits arising from their marriage in the State in which the marriage was legalized, and possibly those other States which also recognize such unions; and at the Federal level. States which do not recognize same sex marriage may not be compelled to do so if section two is not struck down.

In the context of United States Immigration: as American immigration benefits, such as US visas, are Federal benefits it seems logical to surmise that if section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, then same sex bi-national couples may become eligible for immigration benefits similar to those of their different-sex counterparts. Therefore, an American citizen who has a same-sex fiance might be able to obtain a K-1 visa if the couple has the intention of getting married in one of those States which allow same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the same-sex spouse of an American Citizen or lawful permanent resident may become eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence as a result of the decision to overturn section 3 of DOMA. This remains speculation at this time as the Supreme Court has yet to hand down their decision and the various agencies tasked with adjudicating immigration matters will likely require an interval of time in order to update relevant regulations so as to comply with a possible Supreme Court decision; but there appears to be at least some hope on the horizon that same sex marriage and the immigration benefits which could be granted as a result of Federal recognition of such unions may become a legal reality.

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

 

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23rd August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice has apparently filed a memorandum noting un-Constitutional discrimination imposed pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide further insight this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of Instinct Magazine, InstinctMagazine.com:

President Obama’s Department of Justice filed a memo in support of Edie Windsor’s case against the “Defense of Marriage Act” on Friday, marking the second time the Administration has officially stated its opposition to the discriminatory law.

Windsor, who was subjected to unjust federal taxes after her partner of 44-years passed away in 2007, filed a lawuit challenging DOMA. Last week, the DOJ added its weight of support to her claims.

Written in the memo:

Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates. Section 3 treats same-sex couples who are legally married under their states’ laws differently than similarly situated opposite-sex couples, denying them the status, recognition, and significant federal benefits otherwise available to married persons. Under well-established factors set forth by the Supreme Court to guide the determination whether heightened scrutiny applies to a classification that singles out a particular group, discrimination based on sexual orientation merits heightened scrutiny. Under this standard of review, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

But the DOJ states in the brief:

-DOMA is discriminatory

-Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic

-Anti-gay discrimination on religious grounds is unconstitutional

-LGBTs make good parents

-DOMA is harmful to children…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to learn more from this interesting article.

As DOMA is currently interpreted and enforced by the American government same sex married couples cannot obtain immigration and visa benefits such as a K-1 visa, a CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa. This current state of affairs may contravene notions of Full Faith and Credit as enshrined in the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, as there has yet to be a final resolution in the US Courts on the matter and as the United States Congress has yet to pass legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act or the Uniting American Families Act the ultimate fate of same sex bi-national couples in America remains to be seen.

In news related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN which includes the following jurisdictions: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam), it recently came to this blogger’s attention that there are those noting the possibility of further ASEAN economic progress in the coming months and years. In order to provide further information on these issues it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Bangkok Post, BangkokPost.com:

CIMB Thai Bank is developing an infrastructure base to cope with greater business opportunities offered by the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, said chief finance executive Narongchai Wongthanavimok. Its major shareholder, CIMB Group, expects the AEC will increase deals in the region. The group has a strong network across Asean that can support CIMBT’s expansion in the region. The bank developed a core banking system and improved its financial support to cope with international transactions, he said. The Malaysia-based CIMB Group has the largest branch network in Asean with 1,105 subsidiaries across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. It also has plans for branches in Cambodia, India and Sri Lanka. The financial group is helmed by people from the region and it reaches 81% of the Asean population, representing 89% of the region’s gross domestic product…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks above to view this insightful article in detail.

One could infer from the information above that the increasing economic integration of ASEAN and the emergence of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) may result in further economic benefits for the jurisdictions which comprise the organization and region. As noted above, the ramifications of these developments could have implications for economies such as those of India and Sri Lanka since the increasing business and trade occurring in Southeast Asia could “spillover” into those nations. Meanwhile, discussion pertaining to an ASEAN visa have yet to result in the creation of a tangible unified ASEAN travel document. How all of the developments noted above will evolve over time and the ultimate fate of ASEAN’s economy remains to be seen, but there is clearly a trend of increasing optimism regarding the future of Southeast Asia’s economy.

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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24th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that there is some speculation regarding the possibility that some sort of repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) may not necessarily be forthcoming. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Lez Get Real website, LezGetReal.com:

None of us have seriously expected that the House of Representatives would take up the Respect for Marriage Act. After all, the Republicans have to try and hold onto what is left of their base, and at this point, they are just scared that the rest of the country is going to turn their back on them…It is not surprising. Boehner is wasting valuable money in order to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court after parts of it were declared unconstitutional and President Barack Obama abandoned the defense of it on that basis…

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

The question that this blogger would pose regarding Republican support (or lack thereof) for at least a change to DOMA is this: since when did Republicans casually overlook glaring issues such as that of States’ Rights? Pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States of America public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every State shall receive Full Faith and Credit from that State’s sister States. Although the federal government is permitted to regulate as to the “effect” of such acts, proceedings, and records; it would appear to this blogger that said government is not permitted to abrogate State acts, proceedings, and records via mere “non-recognition”. That stated, a final resolution on these issues has yet to be seen.

On a related topic, it would appear that the sovereign State of New York has heeded the call of her citizenry and thereby placed them one step closer to the ultimate goal of full LGBT Equality. In order to provide sufficient insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the New York Post, NYPost.com:

The Big Apple said “I do” to a new era of gay rights this morning and celebrated New York City’s first same-sex weddings. Chelsea residents Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopelov, 85, got hitched at the marriage bureau on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan at 9:02 a.m., setting off wedding bells across Gotham. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, witnessed the ceremony that was officiated by City Clerk Michael McSweeney. ‘‘It was just so amazing,’’ said Siegel, who has been with her love for 23 years. ‘‘It’s the only way I can describe it. I lost my breath and a few tears.’’ She added: ‘‘This is the first day of the rest of our lives…’’

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to learn more from this well written article.

The State of New York joins other American States such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in providing marriage benefits to same sex couples. Frequent readers of this blog may note that this news is perhaps cold comfort to the many same sex bi-national couples who are currently separated due to enforcement of the provisions of DOMA. Pursuant to the language of DOMA, even those who have entered into a same sex marriage in one of those jurisdictions in which said unions are legalized and/or solemnized are not permitted to obtain visas such as the K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa in the same way as different-sex couples. That stated, proposed legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) should resolve these issues, but passage of said legislation remains to be seen.

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

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14th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that United States President Barack Obama is apparently set to attend an upcoming ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia. In order to provide further information regarding such developments it is necessary to quote directly from the Jakarta Updates website, JakartaUpdates.com:

United States President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the ASEAN Summit in Bali in September 2011. Obama’s arrival is hoped to bring a positive image for Bali and Indonesia in general in particular after the 2002 Bali bombing. “The arrival of President Obama is hoped to foster the trust of the international community regarding the security aspects of Indonesia and especially Bali’s readiness to hold a world-class event,” said a member of Commission IV DPRD Bali, Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, in Denpasar, on Tuesday (12/07/2011). According to Kerthyasa, this visit will have a very positive impact not only great for tourism in Bali, but also for Indonesia. That will mean Indonesian security has been acknowledged and Bali is considered a very special place…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

This news comes upon the heels of a recent trip by the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff to China. Clearly, both of these developments illustrate the increasing importance of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) jurisdictions (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam) and China. These events are also a testament to the increasing global economic dominance of Asia in general. Hopefully the discussions held at this upcoming summit will result in tangible benefits for the American people and the people of those nations which are members of ASEAN.

In news pertaining to the struggle for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Equality it recently came to this blogger’s attention that a highly respected advocacy organization for the cause of LGBT Equality recently submitted a brief to a New York Court in support of the rights of a same sex bi-national couple. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from a press release posted upon the official website of Lambda Legal, LambdaLegal.org:

(New York, July 12, 2011) – Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in a case involving Cristina Ojeda and Monica Alcota, a married binational lesbian couple from Queens, New York. The friend-of-the-court brief argues that immigration officials are incorrectly relying on an inapplicable case for authority to continue deportation proceedings while the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is being challenged…In the brief filed yesterday, Lambda Legal argues that USCIS cannot insulate itself from legal and political developments surrounding both DOMA and a 1982 case, Adams v. Howerton. Adams has been superseded by intervening legal and legislative developments including the emergence of jurisdictions where marriage or civil unions of same-sex couples are recognized, and ongoing federal court cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. Finally, since the law surrounding DOMA is developing, the brief urges immigration officials to administratively close or postpone all pending immigration matters involving married same-sex couples until DOMA is repealed or declared unconstitutional. Absent DOMA, there is no legal impediment to extending immigration protections to Ms. Alcota and spouses in similarly-situated same-sex couples…

The administration of this web log adamantly encourages those interested to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read about these developments. As a practical matter, “administrative closure” has been used in the past with respect to the K-3 visa (a United States travel document somewhat akin to the K-1 visa although designed for the foreign spouse of an American Citizen) where the underlying I-130 (the petition form for a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa) sees adjudication and arrival at the National Visa Center prior to, or contemporaneously with, the I-129f petition package. Therefore, usage of administrative closing in an immigration context is not altogether unheard of. That said, whether such a mechanism will ultimately be utilized under these circumstances remains to be seen.

As noted previously on this blog, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) did attempt to place a hold upon deportations involving same sex bi-national couples. However, that hold was apparently rescinded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) citing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) as a valid reason for such action. Thereafter, it was noted that the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, vacated a finding for deportation in a case before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) involving a couple who had entered into a same sex civil union in the sovereign State of  New Jersey. It was recently noted that United States Bankruptcy Courts appear poised to begin adjudicating bankruptcy petitions from same sex couples. All of these developments have occurred contemporaneously with news that the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate is preparing to hold hearings regarding the possible repeal of DOMA and the ramifications of adopting legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act would hopefully provide federal recognition of a same sex marriage legalized and/or solemnized by an American State which permits such unions.

Strictly within the context of American immigration it should be noted that Representative Jerrold Nadler has introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in order to remedy the current legal discrimination imposed upon the LGBT community. Furthermore, it would appear that Representative Mike Honda‘s Reuniting Families Act includes UAFA-like language which would attempt to correct the current inequities borne by same-sex bi-national couples.

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

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9th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Bankruptcy Courts may soon be hearing cases involving bankruptcy petitions for couples who have entered into a same sex marriage. In order to provide further insight it is prudent to quote directly from the official website of the Reuters News Service, Reuters.com:

The U.S. Justice Department has dropped its opposition to joint bankruptcy petitions filed by same-sex married couples in a victory for supporters of gay marriage. The policy change is the latest setback for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has come under increasing pressure since the Obama administration said in February that it would no longer defend its constitutionality. Until now, the Justice Department had routinely intervened to stop joint bankruptcy cases filed by same-sex couples. The Department’s position had been that the bankruptcy code only allows joint filings by opposite-sex spouses as defined under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. In an unexpected turnabout, the department on Wednesday filed a request to withdraw its appeal in one such case. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler confirmed the policy change in an e-mail to Reuters on Thursday. “The Department of Justice has informed bankruptcy courts that it will no longer seek dismissal of bankruptcy petitions filed jointly by same-sex debtors who are married under state law,” she wrote…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this interesting article by Terry Baynes which was edited by Cynthia Johnston.

Although the main thrust of this blog is not centered upon the discussion of federal bankruptcy issues, this change in policy to recognize those same sex couples married under State law is certainly a victory for advocates of LGBT Equality. Concurrently, it is also a victory for proponents of States’ Rights, a doctrine which holds many of the prerogatives and laws of the States in high regard relative to those of the federal government of the United States of America. Meanwhile, advocates for full LGBT Equality must continue to wait for full legal recognition of equal rights until such time as the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) is either repealed, replaced with legislation similar to the Respect for Marriage Act, or amended in such a way that true equality under the law is granted for the individuals involved while the prerogatives of the sovereign American States are respected. Something perhaps akin to the doctrine of “certainty” enshrined in the provisions of the Respect for Marriage Act noted above.

In an American immigration context, it should be noted that members of the LGBT community cannot be granted the same visa benefits in the same manner as other communities since same sex bi-national couples are not able to obtain travel documents such as the CR-1 visa, the IR-1 visa, or the K-1 visa in the same way as their different-sex counterparts. Therefore until such time as DOMA is repealed this situation is unlikely to change. In the event that legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act, the Reuniting Families Act, or the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is enacted by the Congress and signed into law by the President then a same sex bi-national couple may be able to petition for US immigration benefits for their spouse or fiance. As of the time of this writing, such a scenario is not yet feasible.

In news related to China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) it recently came to this blogger’s attention that tensions appear to be subsiding with respect to the various issues surrounding the South China Sea. This assessment is made based upon apparent announcements from the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.  To provide more information it is necessary to quote directly from the website of Business World Online, BWorldOnline.com:

BEIJING –FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Albert F. del Rosario on Friday said he and ranking Chinese officials agreed to settle the territorial dispute in the South China Sea through guidelines agreed upon by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) almost a decade ago.Mr. Del Rosario, who talked to foreign journalists at the St. Regis Hotel near the Philippine embassy, said “yes” when asked if his two-day visit was a success, adding that both side have renewed their commitment to bring stability in the area amid recent tensions. “The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002,” Mr. del Rosario said, referring to his meeting with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. “Both ministers agreed to further strengthen the bonds and friendship and cooperation between the two countries and to fully implement the Joint Action Plan,” he added. “Both ministers exchanged views on the maritime disputes and agreed not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Mr. del Rosario further said…The South China Sea, which hosts the oil-rich Spratly Islands, has been claimed in part or wholly by Brunei Darrusalam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. In a conference in Manila late this week, foreign policy experts called for a binding agreement among Spratly claimants to resolve conflicting positions…[sic]

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this insightful article by Darwin T. Wee.

As can be gathered from the excerpt noted above, there have been many geopolitical facets to the South China Sea dispute, but one notable aspect of this developing situation is that the parties have a seemingly genuine desire to deal with the matter reasonably and and peacefully. Hopefully this attitude will continue and these issues can be resolved to the benefit of all concerned.

At the time of this writing, China continues to show signs of increasing economic and political strength. These developments come amidst news that Malaysia has maintained trade discussions with various African and Islamic nations while simultaneously playing a role within ASEAN. At the same time, circumstances in the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have lead many to believe that all of these jurisdiction will show further economic flourish in the future. Vietnam and Taiwan are dealing with rather new issues as they find themselves confronting the rest of the world on somewhat different terms compared to times past. These developments have both positive and negative ramifications for these jurisdictions, but the overall economic and political forecasts for all of these places appears bright.

As the aforementioned dispute appears to be moving toward a resolution it is hoped that further disputes can be handled using some sort of framework which provides efficiency in adjudicating issues while simultaneously operating on terms which all parties concerned can agree upon.

For information related to same sex marriage and the intersection between State and federal law please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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

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25th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the sovereign State of New York has recently passed legislation which would permit same sex marriage in that jurisdiction. To provide further insight into these developments it may be prudent to quote directly from an Associated Press article written by Michael Gormley and posted to the Yahoo News section of Yahoo.com:

ALBANY, N.Y. – Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that was narrowly passed by state lawmakers Friday, handing activists a breakthrough victory in the state where the gay rights movement was born. New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed and the biggest by far. “We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognize our families and the battle will now go on in other states,” said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat. Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Governor Andrew Cuomo has also been on the vanguard of initiatives designed to provide some protection for America’s immigrant communities. As the former Attorney-General of New York he has executed policies to counter immigration scams perpetrated against immigrants in the State of New York. To provide further insight into these developments this blogger felt it prudent to quote another source regarding these events. To quote directly from an article written by Marcia Kramer and posted on the website of CBS New York at CBSLocal.com:

ALBANY (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gay marriage will soon become legal in New York state after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly voted in favor of the controversial bill on Friday night. Advocates are calling it a historic step as New York is now set to become the sixth but by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign the bill. Gay weddings could begin 30 days after that…

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

There is little doubt that these developments are very significant for the LGBT community, but the struggle for full equality is far from finished as these developments may be cold comfort to those same sex bi-national couples who currently cannot be reunited in the United States due to the American federal government’s continued enforcement of the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) a piece of legislation which forbids the United States federal government from granting any form of recognition to same sex marriages even when those marriages are duly solemnized and/or legalized in one of the sovereign American States which recognizes such marital unions. Currently, proposed legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Respect for Marriage Act and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA, a proposed piece of legislation which would rectify the current application of DOMA in an immigration context); or Representative Mike Honda‘s Reuniting Families Act would attempt to rectify, to one degree or another, the current discrimination borne by the LGBT community.

More American States seem to be heeding the call of their citizenry and taking legislative action to provide support for America’s LGBT families. Hopefully all of these developments eventually lead to a broad based recognition of the individual natural rights of all Americans.

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

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

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15th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States judicial system recently played host to a proceeding in which the issue of judicial recusal was discussed in the context of a recent case upholding the Constitutionality of same sex marriage in the sovereign State of California. To provide further insight into these developments it may be best to quote directly from the official website of the Associated Press, AP.org:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has a message for those trying to salvage California’s gay marriage ban: Sure, the judge who threw out the measure last year is in a long-term relationship with a man, but he could still be fair to them. Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Ware’s ruling Tuesday rejected arguments that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker would potentially benefit from declaring the ban unconstitutional…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail.

For those unfamiliar with the current plight of the LGBT community in the United States it should be noted that the currently enforced provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) preclude same sex couples, including same sex bi-national couples, from acquiring the same legal and/or equitable benefits as their different sex counterparts. This issue arises in the context of American immigration in that same sex married couples, even those married in one of the sovereign American States which allow such unions, cannot obtain American visa benefits. Recently, legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda have introduced legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the Reuniting Families Act which are intended to rectify this discrimination to one degree or another. That stated, it is this blogger’s opinion that this issue may ultimately be resolved by the US Courts. With that in mind, the following was quoted directly from the aforementioned article:

In his 19-page decision – a response to the first attempt in the nation to disqualify a judge based on sexual orientation – Ware had a bigger message. Gay judges, he said, are just like minority and female jurists: They can be impartial, too, even in cases that might affect them. “We all have an equal stake in a case that challenges the constitutionality of a restriction on a fundamental right,” he wrote. “The single characteristic that Judge Walker shares with the plaintiffs, albeit one that might not have been shared with the majority of Californians, gave him no greater interest in a proper decision on the merits than would exist for any other judge or citizen…

This decision is significant for the LGBT community as it elucidates the notion that one’ sexual orientation is not necessarily a bar to impartial decision making. Although the decision in this case does not go to the heart of the struggle for LGBT equality, it does provide a glimmer of hope for LGBT couples that further positive developments may lie ahead.

For related information please see: Proposition 8 or Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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13th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that issues surrounding same sex marriage have recently been analyzed by mainstream media outlets. To shed light upon this development further it may be best to quote directly from an insightful article written by Tara Siegel Bernard on the official website of the New York Times, NYTimes.com:

“There is the possibility that, even without DOMA on the books at all, that a married same-sex couple might not be treated as married by the federal government as to some particular program, benefit or obligation because of simply how the particular federal program determines eligibility in looking to state law to see if a person is married or not,” said Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders…But legislators have come up with a fix. The Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate in March, repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and  also includes a provision — known as “certainty” — that says marriages that are valid in the state where the couple got married will be recognized in other states for the “purposes of any federal law in which marital status is a factor…”

The administration of this blog strongly recommends that readers click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn more.

In previous postings on this web log it has been pointed out that the ramifications of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) are such that discrimination results for same sex bi-national couples as well as the LGBT community at large. In recent years, legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda have introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the Reuniting Families Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act would seem to have been designed in order to deal with some of the more glaring separate sovereignty issues that arise in the context of intraState, interState, and State-Federal recognition of same sex marriage. To expound upon this more it may be best to quote further from the aforementioned article:

Technically speaking, he said, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act on its own should be enough for couples to receive federal recognition. But the certainty provision would also protect couples if a less gay-friendly administration interpreted the repeal more narrowly, and only recognized same-sex marriage for couples who lived in states that recognized their marriage. Mr. Moulton said that his organization was still working with members of Congress to build support for the bill, and educating them about “the concrete harms that DOMA has done to same-sex couples…”

For those who read this blog with any frequency it has, no doubt, been noticed that the administration is in opposition to the very existence of DOMA as that legislation infringes upon the sovereign rights of the States and the people to make decisions regarding the licensure of marriage and the maintenance of consensual relationships, respectively. That stated, since DOMA is still “on the books” it currently results in the separation of same sex bi-national couples in an immigration context and discrimination against the LGBT community in a broader sense. This certainty provision noted above is interesting as it pertains primarily to Federal rights and privileges in an interState context. Therefore, if a same sex couple marries in a State which legalizes and/or solemnizes same sex marriage, then the Federal benefits derived therefrom would likely travel with that couple no matter what State they travel to and no matter what Federal benefit they seek. This blogger would argue that perhaps this scenario would already occur pursuant to the privileges and/or immunities clauses, but in this situation it may be best to have some legislative guidance in order to streamline possible future policies pertaining to same sex marriages. As of the time of this writing UAFA, the Respect for Marriage, and the Reuniting Families Act have yet to be adopted, but hopefully, for the LGBT community’s sake, that will change sooner rather than later.

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

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