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DOMA decision may impact immigration reform efforts

Just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. In many ways, this is the biggest Supreme Court decision in several years and it may have an impact on the currently proposed immigration reform bill.

Before yesterday’s decision, a U.S. citizen could not sponsor a same-sex spouse from another country for a green card. Because DOMA did not allow the federal government to recognize same sex couples, a citizen could not bring his foreign born, same-sex spouse into the U.S. to live legally. The Supreme Court’s decision changes that. Now, all marriages, no matter the sex of the spouses, must be recognized for immigration purposes.

Interestingly, the immigration reform bill currently before Congress does not include language about same-sex couples. The bill’s silence on this issue comes despite extensive lobbying efforts by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups. Of course, if DOMA had been upheld by the Court, efforts to include language extending the definition of marriage for immigration purposes would likely have been met with resistance and may have even killed reform efforts. In fact, some Republican lawmakers had called efforts to include language addressing LGBT couples specifically a “poison pill” that would have caused them to vote against the bill.

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has already announced that her organization will immediately begin work to implement the Court’s decision to ensure that U.S. immigration law is administered fairly and equally. 

Source: NBC News, “DOMA decision a win for LBGT immigration rights advocates,” Carrie Dann, June 26, 2013