Supreme Court's DOMA Decision Grants Same-Sex Binational Couples Federal Immigration Rights
June 26, 2013 — The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this morning and declared that same-sex couples who are legally married deserve equal rights to the benefits under federal law that go to all other married couples.
Of the more than 1,100 federal rights no one is more critical to same-sex binational couples than immigration - or the right of an American citizen to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for permanent residency, or a green card.
In a separate ruling, SCOTUS also dismissed California's Proposition 8 case, a referendum that took away marriage equality from gay and lesbian couples in 2008. This ruling returns the case to a previous 2009 state ruling that declared Proposition 8 was "unconstitutional" under California law.
Both rulings were decided on 5-4 votes. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion on the DOMA case. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the Prop. 8 case.
While the DOMA ruling is clear - federal benefits for any couple that is legally married in a state, country or jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal, the Proposition 8 ruling will take more time for lawmakers to sort out. In the best case scenario, marriage equality will be restored to California within a month.
"Out4Immigration is elated with the results of today's decisions. One of our routes to immigration equality for same-sex binational couples has always been the demise of DOMA. Today that has happened," said Amos Lim, Co-founder and Community Outreach Director of Out4Immigration.
"We will continue to watch how the Proposition 8 decision unfolds and hope for a quick restoration of marriage equality in California," Lim added.
As California, the most populous state, restores marriage equality for its citizens, there will now be 13 states, as well as the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal.
Lim pointed out, however, that same-sex binational couples currently living in the states that lack marriage equality will need to travel to a place where same-sex marriage is legal in order to obtain a marriage that will give them federal benefits. Although federal benefits will be available to these couples, those living in states that lack equal marriage protection will continue to be subject to discrimination at the state level.
"We remain concerned that statutory barriers are still in place for some couples and urge Congress to immediately repeal DOMA in its entirety," said Lim.
Democratic members of Congress were quick to praise the DOMA ruling and pledged to introduce legislation that would finish the job of fully repealing the discriminatory law.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) took to Twitter to say, "I will introduce legislation ASAP to repeal discriminatory DOMA once and for all."
Same-sex binational couples seeking advice on how to proceed with marriage and fiancée visa petitions (i.e., "green card applications") are encouraged to view these resources: "After DOMA: What It Means for You" from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and "The End of DOMA: What Your Family Needs to Know" from Immigration Equality.
The law firm, Masliah and Soloway are offering free consultations to same-sex binational couples. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the San Francisco Bay Area, immigration attorneys Kelly McCown and Jeptha Evans are hosting a series of free legal workshops for same-sex binationals. Visit The Out4Immigration Blog for details.
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