DHS Opens Spouse Immigration Visas to Gay Couples
July 2, 2013 - 12:01 pm
In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the Department of Homeland Security will begin issuing green cards to gays wed to Americans.
“President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
“To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,” she added.
U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national can petition for a family-based visa and “will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature” of the marriage, DHS clarified.
“In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage,” DHS continued, adding it may provide “further guidance on this question going forward.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) had an amendment to the immigration reform bill mandating equal treatment in the immigration process for gay couples, but said last week he’d now yank his request for a floor vote.
“With the Supreme Court’s decision today, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and binational couples can now be united under the law,” Leahy said. “As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment.”