On Monday, January 21st, President Obama was sworn in for his second term as the 44th President of the U.S. During his inauguration speech, President Obama signaled his administration’s willingness to take up a number of issues in its second term. Among those issues: equal pay for women, voter rights, immigration reform and continued progress on LGBT issues. The President said, “ur journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”
President Obama had already begun putting into action his comments made that day by asking immigration officials to treat gay couples as family members or in the same way as heterosexual relationships, in deportation cases. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been ordered to direct its field offices, “that the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ includes long-term, same-sex partners.” This declaration is a huge step forward in keeping gay families united and the first time that gay couples have been recognized in immigration policies.
Last year, President Obama started his fight to make gay couples equal by stating that he would no longer defend DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). DOMA forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage and extension of federal benefits (i.e. Social Security) to same-sex couples. President Obama believes this act is unconstitutional and it is anticipated that DOMA will be eventually overturned. In fact, the Supreme Court is taking up two cases that could have direct impact on the debate. The high court will hear oral arguments on March 26, 2013 in a case against California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry) and on March 27 will hear oral arguments on the DOMA case (United States v. Windsor). The Supreme Court justices will receive written briefs from the parties in both cases prior to the oral arguments, according to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the nonprofit that brought the Perry case to federal court.
If DOMA is overturned, it is believed that this will pave the way for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender U.S. citizens to file green card petitions for their same-sex spouses.
If you have questions regarding family-based immigration, please contact our attorneys today!