Binational Same-Sex Couples Together For Now Despite Mixed Messages From DOJ On DOMA

For married couples, when one spouse is a United States citizen and one isn’t, the citizen can sponsor the foreign national for residency, but only if they are of the opposite sex. The Defense of Marriage Act prevents same-sex couples from accessing the same protections because the federal government does not recognize their marriages. The Department of Justice clarified on Saturday that, despite Attorney General Eric Holder’s intervention on Thursday in one particular case, deportations will likely continue in immigration cases of same-sex binational marriages. This was luckily not the situation for a Newark, NJ couple when a judge granted adjournment on Friday, meaning the couple could stay together until at least December. The judge cited Holder’s decision as the impetus for delaying his ruling.

Despite the unique exceptions for these two couples, DOMA continues to be the law of the land, which means that individuals in same-sex binational marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships have no right to sponsor their partners for green cards. Immigration Equality estimates that there are 36,000 same-sex binational couples in the United States, 45 percent of whom have children. In the absence of employment sponsorship, these families have no legal protection to stay together.

Two bills are before Congress that would alleviate this discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. Last month, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency. Forty-eight U.S. House members also sent a letter (PDF) to the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security requesting deportations come to an end. Just last week, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced the Reuniting Families Act (RFA), a family immigration bill of a wider scale that also includes the same protections as UAFA. Until one of these bills passes or DOMA is overturned, families will continue to be torn apart by government-sanctioned discrimination.