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Same-sex Marriages and Immigration

Immigration law can be a complex subject, affected by more than just laws dealing with immigration issues. Because immigration law is federal law, it can also be impacted by other various legal decisions, including court cases. Take for example, same-sex marriage cases. The Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) created not just a whole new range of options for citizens of the U.S., but also for persons who seek entry into the U.S.

Overturning DOMA

In 2013, the Supreme Court made its seminal ruling in the case United States v. Windsor. The Supreme Court held that the language in Section 3 of DOMA defining marriage as being between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. They stated that the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples was a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. Needless to say, this decision opened the floodgates for the overturning of same-sex marriage bans all across the U.S. In fact, there are currently 37 states, including the District of Columbia, that recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.

The USCIS Statement

Shortly after this decision was made, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued a statement regarding the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on immigration petitions. The Secretary of Homeland Security made it clear that the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) would review immigration visa petitions by same-sex spouses in the same capacity as opposite-sex spouses.

What this Means for Same-sex Couples

This decision by the USCIS to accept and process immigration visa petitions from same-sex couples has a broader reach than one might assume. It goes without saying that the immigration petition must first be based on a valid, recognized marriage. This means that the same-sex couple must be married in a state, or nation, that allows same-sex couples to marry.

Once there is a valid marriage, the couple may then put forward an immigration visa petition in any state in the U.S., regardless of that state’s position on same-sex marriage. In fact, one same-sex couple in Florida made the news shortly after the USCIS decision was released, as being the first same-sex couple to be approved for a permanent resident visa. What is even more notable is that, at the time, Florida did not recognize same-sex marriages.

While this does mean that a couple will be admitted into the country, and will be able to obtain federal benefits, it is still important to consider any state laws that may affect the marriage. This is because the state courts will consider such family law matters as divorce, child custody, and adoption, to name a few.

Contact an Immigration Law Attorney

As it you can tell, immigration law can be a diverse and broad area of law. As a result, a skilled immigration attorney is essential when dealing with any immigration issues or concerns you might have. If you or someone you love is interested in becoming a lawful permanent resident, or is facing deportation or removal proceedings, then contact a dedicated, experienced attorney at The Law Office of Natalie D. Hall, PA for a case evaluation.

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