How DOMA Downfall Helps Immigrants


When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act yesterday, its decision reverberated around the world. Tens of thousands of same-sex spouses of U.S. Citizens and permanent residents suddenly found the door opened to immigrating to the United States.

Discrimination against LGBT couples has finally ended. As Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said yesterday; “It takes the question of someone’s sexual orientation out of the equation when evaluating whether someone is married for immigration purposes.”

I think we will get guidance from Homeland Security on same-sex relative petitions fairly soon. I see no reason for any foot dragging by the Obama administration in accepting applications from citizens and permanent residents. LGBT bi-national couples should begin making wedding plans now!

For those couples that are not yet married and where one partner lives outside the U.S., they will be able to apply for the K Visa which allows the fiancée to travel to the United States to marry. The couple has up to 90 days to marry after the fiancée comes here.

While most Americans are aware that overturning DOMA opens the door for spousal petitions, the decision’s impact is actually much wider. Same-sex married couples will be treated equally with heterosexual couples in a wide range of immigration situations. For example, if a computer engineer comes to the U.S. to work for three years on an H-1B visa, she will be able to bring her wife with her in the future. People granted political asylum will now see their same-sex spouse eligible for that protection as well. If two women marry and one of them already has a child, a step-parent relationship that would have been denied, will now be recognized.

This decision will change the lives of thousands of people for the better. It also makes us a better, more equal country.

I’ll be organizing a counseling session on the DOMA decision and immigration law next month. If you are interested, call CARECEN at 516-489-8330.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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