Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘same sex us visa’

7th August 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12th July 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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3rd April 2010

As frequent readers of this blog may be aware, two of the most hotly debated issues in the realm of United States Immigration are: Comprehensive Immigration Reform and US Family Immigration benefits for LGBT bi-national couples. A seemingly unrelated issue is that of the upcoming United States Census. Recently, the LGBT immigration blog Immigration discussed how the US Census and the issues of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and LGBT Visas are connected:

“Research conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) shows an excellent reason for undocumented immigrants to participate in the census: They can actually use the completed census form as proof of continuous physical presence in the U.S., should Congress enact a path to citizenship, with requires such proof for residency, in the future. Additionally, certified copies of completed census forms can be used as evidence of continuous presence in the U.S. under certain current laws as well. These include the amnesty program under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA); amelioration provisions of the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000; and for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) (for when one cannot return due to war, natural disasters etc.) under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 244…There are undocumented immigrants living in the US in same-sex binational relationships as well, and they should be counted, too. A recent Immigration Equality client, living here with his American partner for nearly 20 years, was detained upon trying to re-enter the United States after going home to visit his dying mother. By participating in the confidential census process, couples like these can be “counted,” and give voice, through their numbers, to the very real plight of binational couples who have, for too long, remain too hidden in the shadows.”

As explained above, proof of having participated in a US Census can be used as evidence to show one’s continuous residence in the United States of America. Therefore, participating in the Census can be a beneficial endeavor for certain individuals.

It is interesting to note how the issue of undocumented aliens intersects with the issue of LGBT Immigration rights as these two groups would otherwise seem to have interests that are unrelated, but at this time same sex bi-national and undocumented aliens are in legally precarious position. In this author’s opinion, Comprehensive Immigration Reform could be the solution to both of these groups’ problems, but this author believes that it is more likely that the US Courts will deal with the issue of same sex immigration when they adjudicate the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the outcome with regard to all of these issues remains to be seen.

For information about US Immigration from the Kingdom of Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand.

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25th December 2009

As it is the Holiday season in the United States many families are reunited with their loved ones in order to be together during the festivities. However, there are some families who cannot be reunited in the US due to restrictions imposed by US Immigration law. Most notable among those who probably will not be re-united this Christmas are same-sex bi-national couples. Since the Defense of Marriage Act was passed in the mid-1990′s it has been virtually impossible for bi-national same-sex couples to receive US Immigration benefits even where their marriage was executed in a jurisdiction in the United States of America. In a recent blog post on the website the author notes that recently proposed Immigration reform legislation does not address the issues associated with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) Immigration.  To quote directly from the blog:

“Earlier today, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced an immigration reform proposal in the House of Representatives that does not include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families. We pushed hard for inclusion in this bill, and we are deeply disappointed. However, I want to be clear: this is not the comprehensive immigration reform package which will move through the House. And, there are many reasons to remain optimistic about our inclusion in CIR down the road.

First, it is important to note that Congressman Gutierrez remains a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the LGBT-inclusive Reuniting Families Act (RFA) in Congress. In the weeks and months leading up to the introduction of the Gutierrez bill, Immigration Equality pushed for inclusion of our families. When it became clear that this was not to be, we asked for the Congressman to continue to work for an end to immigration laws that discriminate against LGBT families, and we have every expectation that he will do so.”

It is this author’s opinion that the same-sex immigration issue will likely be dealt with in the United States Courts as the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate seems reluctant to either overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). However, this author believes that the Defense of Marriage Act is in direct violation of the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution because DOMA overrides state prerogatives regarding what constitutes a valid marriage. From a Constitutional standpoint, this author hopes to soon see the onerous provisions of DOMA either repealed through legislation or struck down by the courts.

For more information please see: US Visa Thailand

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11th November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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