On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions in favor of same-sex marriage. I.S. Law Firm welcomes these decisions, which will pave the way for married homosexual couples to enjoy the same immigration benefits that have long been available to heterosexual couples.
Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not yet put the necessary guidance in place to start adjudicating immigration applications filed by same-sex spouses, today’s development means that gay married couples cannot be denied federal benefits straight married couples enjoy, including the ability to petition for the immigration of their spouses.
Currently, the USCIS uses the definition of “marriage” set forth in 1996 by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which amended the Dictionary Act – a law providing rules of construction for over 1,000 federal laws and the whole realm of federal regulations – to define “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners. In 2011, President Obama’s Justice Department announced it would no longer defend DOMA’s constitutionality. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court follows suit in striking down DOMA’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. In addition, the Supreme Court rejected California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8.
In United States v. Windsor, a New York resident Edith Windsor, whose same-sex spouse died in 2009 leaving her estate to Windsor, sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, but was barred from doing so by §3 of DOMA. Windsor, who had married her same-sex partner in 2007 in Canada, paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund, which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied. Windsor brought a refund suit, contending that DOMA violates the principles of equal protection incorporated in the Fifth Amendment. On the merits, the District Court ruled against the United States, finding §3 unconstitutional and ordering the Treasury to refund Windsor’s tax with interest. The Second Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court upheld prior rulings in Windsor’s favor, declaring DOMA unconstitutional.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, respondents, same-sex couples who wish to marry, filed suit in federal court challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the State Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. After a bench trial, the court declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional and enjoined the public officials named as defendants from enforcing the law. The Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners, who opposed same-sex marriage, did not have standing to appeal the District Court’s order, because they were not affected by the outcome in a “personal and individual way”. Therefore, the Supreme Court rejected California’s same sex marriage ban, although it stopped short of declaring that gays and lesbians in any other states that currently do not allow same sex marriages have a right to marry.
Attorneys at I.S. Law Firm have helped many U.S. citizens and permanent residents to bring their spouses to the United States. If you are in a bi-national same-sex marriage and are interested in sponsoring your spouse for immigration in the United States, please contact us at +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail: [email protected].