Defense of Marriage Act – How Does the Supreme Court’s Decision Impact Immigration?
On June 26, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed that the federal government does not have any legitimate reason to discriminate against married couples based on their sexual orientation.
Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a press release stating “Today’s historic decision means that our immigration system must stop treating gay and lesbian families differently than other families. “I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits. I am pleased the Court agreed with the Administration’s position that DOMA’s restrictions violate the Constitution. Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”
What does this mean for U.S. immigration?: Going forward, as soon as the minor legal issues have been worked out, gay couples will be able to apply for the same immigration benefits as “straight” couples. For instance, nonimmigrant workers in H-1B, L-1, etc. status will be able to bring their spouses to the U.S. as dependents (i.e. H-4, L-2) regardless of their sexual orientation. And, U.S. permanent residents and citizens will also be able to sponsor their spouses for permanent resident status regardless of their sexual orientation.
We are following this historic decision and its impact on U.S. immigration very closely and will provide additional information as it is received.