Integrity Legal

8th June 2010

A frequent topic on this blog is same sex marriage and the intersection of that issue with US Immigration law. Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) effectively prevents Federal recognition of Same Sex Marriages when adjudicating US Immigration petitions. Therefore, different sex couples who are validly married in a jurisdiction in the United States can petition for Immigration benefits if one of the partners is foreign national. This is not the case for same sex couples as same sex partners are currently barred from obtaining US Immigration benefits based upon a bona fide same sex marriage. This issue is being widely discussed in US Immigration circles. An example of this discussion can be found in the most recent edition of The Voice, a publication promulgated by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). The following is an excerpt from a recent article discussing LGBT immigration issues:

“At present, gay and lesbian marriages are recognized in 10 countries. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, and Sweden recognize marriage equality uniformly throughout their territories.5 Same-sex marriages
also are recognized in some parts of Argentina and Mexico.6 However, DOMA closes the door to same-sex marriage recognition under any federal law, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). So for those couples who have united legally in one of the many countries stated above, DOMA would keep federal immigration laws from legally recognizing those unions upon their immigration to the United States.

Many courts have found that the language of DOMA is clear and unambiguous. But can DOMA be struck down? In addition to suits filed in Massachusetts,8 at least one other high-profile case in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, D.Ct.N.D.Cal. case 3:2009cv02292 (filed May 22, 2009), is currently challenging the constitutionality of discrimination against same-sex marriages more generally. If such a case were successful, it might lead courts to strike down DOMA and all anti-gay state marriage amendments, presumably resulting in the clear recognition of all bona fide same sex marriages in the United States.”

Although there are many legal obstacles in the path of equal Immigration rights for same sex couples, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel as a repeal of DOMA would create an opening that could be exploited by advocates for same ex immigration. To quote the aforementioned article:

“In a world without DOMA, U.S. immigration law would clearly recognize the same-sex marriage of a couple residing in a U.S. state that recognizes the marriage. It is also highly likely that the marriages would be recognized for residents of other states with no laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.”

Although repeal of DOMA may not be a perfect legal solution from an Immigration standpoint, a repeal of DOMA in conjunction with the adoption of a statute such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would likely be an optimal solution to the current legal impasse.

For more information please see: Same Sex Visa.


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