Obama's Stance On DOMA Could Benefit Binational Gay Couples

Categories: LGBT
gaymarriage constitution.jpg
UPDATE, 3/2: Gay binational couples are planning a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of DOMA.

Political calculations are aflutter in response to the Obama administration's claim that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Here's one more: What does this mean for gay immigrants who are married?

As we explored in a 2010 cover story, "Worlds Apart," marrying a U.S. citizen is still the most common route to getting a green card in the United States. Yet because of DOMA, gay couples are left out; a gay American cannot sponsor his or her spouse to become a permanent resident. Left with no legal way to be with their loved one in this country, the undocumented partner might live in the shadows here, or the couples leave the United States all together.


Efforts to change this situation have tanked. The Uniting American Families Act, which would allow "permanent partners" the same rights as spouses in immigration law, has stalled in Congress for over a decade.

But Obama's new stance may change the game, says Steve Ralls, the spokesman for Immigration Equality, a New York and Washington-based non-profit that advocates for gay immigrants.

"The question we have now is what new opportunities has the justice department's position created?" Ralls says. "Has is created new avenues for couples other than getting the [Uniting American Families Act] through Congress? Those are conversations our legal staff is having now."

Melanie Nathan, an attorney and gay rights blogger from LezGetReal, suggested one possible avenue: a lawsuit.

A gay couple who had their immigration petition rejected could sue the Department of Justice for discrimination. Now, "the DOJ probably wouldn't defend [DOMA]," Nathan says.

Ralls from Immigration Equality says a lawsuit challenging the immigration law would "certainly be an option. I can't say that's the action we will take, but it's on the list of possibilities."

Still, lawsuits like this are always a long, onerous process, Nathan says: "Going through the judicial system would take longer than the repeal of DOMA."

But Senator Dianne Feinstein is currently crafting a bill to respond to that. If DOMA is repealed, gay Americans would "presumably" be able to sponsor gay spouses for immigration status, Ralls says - with one caveat.

"They would need to [live] in a state where marriage is recognized," he says. So it would only help California-based couples who are currently married.

New couples seeking to get married would have to move to another state that does recognize gay marriage in order to apply for immigration benefits. Certainly, all the couples we interviewed were either thinking about or they are already in the midst of relocating to gay couple-friendly Canada.

So what's a move to Vermont?

"I have no doubt there are couple that for the opportunity to sponsor their partner for permanent residency would look at [moving] to a state that would recognize [their marriage]," Ralls says.

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Sasha Attorney
Sasha Attorney

I am an immigration attorney in Miami, Florida and I am beginning a campaign here for same-sex couples to marry and file petitions on behalf of their foreign national spouse in the hope that DOMA will be overturned soon. Those who were questioning Ralls' statement about moving to a state which recognizes gay marriage are correct in their thinking. The law is very clear that a marriage must only be valid in the place where it occurred and thae law of th place of marriage governs. Thus, same-sex couples may marry in Vermont or Massachusetts and return to their home states to reside.

In response to the comments regarding potentially fraudulent marriages, same-sex couples will be subject to the same scrutiny as all other couples. For couples married less than two years, the foreign national will become a conditional resident and will have to again prove the validity of the marriage two years later to remove the conditions from his or her residency.

I am married to a South African citizen and we happen to be a heterosexual couple and my husband's immigration process has been very simple, it is truly unfair that it should be simple for us and so restrictive for same-sex couples. Everyone deserves to be with their loved ones!

Lastly, in response to remarks about simpling going to the foreign spouse's country to be together, this is not a reality as there are only 19 countries in the world who allow same-sex spouses to petition for immigration benefits for their partners. The U.S. is supposed to be a leader on issues of equality, civil rights, and human rights, yet we are falling behind other nations. Hopefully we can change the law on this issue and restore America to position as a human rights leader.

FAEN
FAEN

I don't care how this happens as long as it does.

Nathan
Nathan

OK just did my research on Rabbi Pedro - he is nothing but a troll. Most of us bloggers know what that means. He goes from site to site to get attention, under the same Pseudonym, where he spews his anger/bigotry/anti semitism - because he knows if he started his own BLOG no one would ever read him. That is the perfect TROLL. He uses RABBI to make antisemitic statements - hoping to draw the attention of the Jews.

Here is Ny profile of this particular RABBI troll1. Coward - afraid t stand behind his own name2. Attention seeker3. Physically very hard to look at - unpleasant hardly smiles, 4, No sense of Humor5. Parents abused him one or both6. Probably would like to molest children but is afraid to get caught so does not making him as much of a pedophile as anyone else7. Very Small P#nis8. Very boring work job unfulfilled9. Angry with his spouse or divorced

FBI How did I do?

Guanaco
Guanaco

Why are you so mean? Where in your Jewish Bible does it give you the moral right to horribly attack a fine upsatnding Rabbi like Pedro Goldstein?

Decent American
Decent American

Don't we have enough SHAM Filipino marraiges as it is? Listen, it isn't the government's place to accomodate every single old, fat, ugly, white man who wants to buy a young 18 year old Asian bride be it male or female. My contention is - if they REALLY love each other that much - then they should be content to live out there days in the Philipines and NOT America. That new policy might stop all this bullshit in its tracks. We have way to many of those damn scamming flips in SF already

Nathan
Nathan

Well I wondered when thge bigots would join the forum. Sometimes I think they have "google alert" set to the word "immigration" - This is NO Decent American as America was founded on Immgration. and afraid to reveal his/her true identity. Easy to be a bigot behind pseudonynms. That said, this idiot makes the very argument - for GAY same-sex green cards and immigration. Why? Because he highlights the fact that straight people are engaging in FRAUD while Gays cannot sponsor spouses; and he also highlights how easy it is to marry a foreigner even via mail order and bring them to US - again shedding light on same-sex couples who are in love for years and cannot come into the USA. Thanks for being a DECENT AMERICAN

Guanaco
Guanaco

In defense of Decent American - His point, if you would stop being hung up on being a Gay Jew for a minute - is that ANY immigration fraud is fraud and pole smokers and rug munchers have no more right to commit immigration fraud than normal people. So There!

Jennifer White
Jennifer White

So you're saying that gay Americans should be forced into exile? I have an Australian wife and I cannot keep her in my home country with me. F*ck you for saying people like me don't deserve to bring their loved ones home.

Nathan
Nathan

@Pedro - I am a Jew and I hope to G-d you are not really a Rabbi - if you are you ought to be ashamed of yourself and I am going to OUT your rude bigotted mouth in a forum where you deserve to be heard!!!

Rabbi_Pedro_Goldstein
Rabbi_Pedro_Goldstein

Listen "Nate" if that is your real name. You just don't get it. I'm not against immigration. I'm against this bullshit marriage/fiancee visa crap. It is nothing more than legalized slavery/prostitution. And for you to question my Jewishness as a Rabbi, then you can sick on my hairy Jewish Balls.

Decent American
Decent American

NO- Im saying that your loved one should bring YOU home to THEIR country! I dont care that you can find a decent american to have sex with you - just dont bring the hooker here.

Nathan
Nathan

What makes you think that the Gay or lesbian American has less of a right to stay in the USA - in pursuit of happiness - with their beloved that STRAIGHT people are you Decent American saying that there should be no immigration AT ALL? For Anyone? Ever?

Rabbi_Pedro_Goldstein
Rabbi_Pedro_Goldstein

Hey Jennifer - Take your pennies and leave. We all know when you do the numbers - the money the immigrant mail order bride/groom and their family members who eventually come over for their green cards too suck way more money out of our economy than the money you claim to put into the system. The fact that you have to go half way around the world to find some lezbo pussy says more about your lack of decency than mine.

Jennifer White
Jennifer White

Yep, and take all my money with me. There is nothing decent about you you disgusting prick.

Jennifer White
Jennifer White

Section 2 of DOMA is the law saying that states don't have to recognize gay marriages from other states. That is actually a clear violation of article 4 section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, however it is section 3 of DOMA that is being debated, not the entire act. If section 3 of DOMA is overturned and sections 1 and 2 remain, then if you go to state and get married and then return home to a state that doesn't recognize your marriage, the federal government (immigration) will still recognize your valid and legal marriage because they are not affected by section 2 of DOMA. People will be able to get all federal benefits with a valid marriage license from any state even if the state they live in doesn't recognize the marriage.

Nathan
Nathan

Exactly my point. I dont understand if Ralls was misquoted or if he truly does not get it? But as a representative of Immigration Equality which touts itself as the preeminent immigration org I expect he should have the understanding. Perhaps Lauren can explain?

Christopher Gable
Christopher Gable

CA legally recognizes out of state marriages -- though not necessarily as marriages but not as DPs either. That is the law in CA now. It's a post prop 8 law. Plus, there is no reason why the Feds have to not recognize your legal marriage because you live in a state that does not recognize it. When the Lovings were married, though not in Va, did the Feds recognize their marriage and the hundreds of thousands in the same position. I think they did.

Nathan
Nathan

Thats exactly what I say- Why do you think Steve Ralls of IE thinks otherwise. ?

Kinopia
Kinopia

On the situation in California, it seems to me that if discrimination against gays in marriage is ruled unconstitutional, then the current legal challenges to Prop 8 will necessarily succeed. Therefore gay marriages will again be legal in California.

Debbie
Debbie

I believe that so long as the civil union/marriage were performed in a given state e.g. Vermont state they should be recognized in all states - otherwise we are just trading one set of restrictions for another. This is not the case with heterosexual couples. We would just be perpetuating the problem not solving it.

Nathan
Nathan

By the way I disagree that a Couple would HAVE to live in the State they got married once the immigration process was concluded. They would obviously have to get married in a State where marriage is legal. As States could still legislate out of Samesex marriage; but I believe contrary to Ralls statement that a couple married in a legitimate State could live anywhere and have their marriage federally recognized for the purpose of immigration.

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