U.S. Law Center

Supreme Court ruling could help same sex immigrant couples

While U.S. v. Windsor focuses on how the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) may affect how same sex couples are recognized for tax purposes, the Supreme Court's ruling could change how they are recognized for immigration purposes as well.

Currently, the federal government does not recognize same sex couples as relatives. This essentially prevents same sex spouses (even though their union is recognized in another country) from obtaining the same immigration status afforded to heterosexual spouses. With the federal definition of marriage being one man, and one woman, same sex couples are basically barred from seeking family based visas normally allowed for heterosexual couples.

While the Court will not be deciding the constitutionality of same sex marriage, a number of federal agencies have indicated that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to an ABC News report, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that her agency will treat gay and straight couples equally in deportation proceedings.

Also, the White House released a proposal calling for congressional leaders to treat same-sex couples as families "on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner." This may be a huge benefit for undocumented couples, who may constantly live in fear of being separated from a loved one, just like families we have reported on in prior posts.

The Windsor decision is expected in June. It is widely expected that it will affect future negotiations on immigration reform, as provisions for same sex couples were not included in preliminary versions of the bill.

Source: ABC News.com, DOMA ruling could mean benefits for gay immigrants, March 27, 2013

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