Immigration Impact of DOMA Repeal

Last Wednesday, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is invalid. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that DOMA is unconstitutional because it sets same-sex couples apart in a way that violates the due process and equal protection principles guaranteed under the Constitution.

DOMA, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, had prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for the purposes of any visa. Because of DOMA, tens of thousands of citizens in same-sex marriages had not been able to apply for green cards for their partners.

USCIS officials have stated that the agency has kept a list of same-sex couples whose green card petitions were denied over the past two years, anticipating that the Supreme Court would eventually weigh in on DOMA. Those denials will now be reversed without couples having to present new applications, as long as no other issues have arisen. Same-sex couples who have not yet filed will have their petitions move through the system at the same pace as traditional couples.

The first notice of approval for a green card for a same-sex spouse was issued by e-mail late Friday to Traian Popov, a Bulgarian immigrant who lives with his American spouse, Julian Marsh, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The quick approval indicates that the Obama administration was acting immediately to change its visa policies in the wake of the court’s decision. Regarding the decision, the President stated “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

The President’s sentiments were echoed by Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who stated “[t]his discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits” and that DHS “will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”

Murray Osorio PLLC are Fairfax Immigration Attorneys dedicated to their clients and to their clients’ families. If you have an immigration matter, it’s important that you contact us as soon as possible. An experienced Fairfax Immigration Lawyer could make all the difference- call us at (800) 929-7142, or fill out our contact form.

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