Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano on Friday pledged in a letter (PDF) to consider a gay or lesbian person’s relationship status in deportation proceedings, bringing relief to many bi-national gay and lesbian couples whose relationships aren’t recognized because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
While this echoes an earlier commitment from the Department of Homeland Security, it is the first time such guidance will be provided in writing:
In an effort to make clear the definition of the phrase “family relationships,” I have directed ICE to disseminate written guidance to the field that the interpretation of the phrase “family relationships” includes long-term, same-sex partners. As with every other factor identified in Director Morton’s June 11 memorandum, the applicability of the “family relationships” factor is weighed on an individualized basis in the consideration of whether prosecutorial discretion is appropriate in a given case.
Napolitano’s commitment is a response to a request for clarification from members of Congress about the deportation process, which currently does not factor in whether a gay or lesbian non-citizen is in a relationship with a citizen — a right afforded to straight couples.