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Immigration Status for Same-Sex Couples

April 6, 2011

On Monday, March 28, 2011, government officials in the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that they were delaying decisions on pending immigration cases involving same-sex couples.  Although it is common for American citizens in heterosexual marriages to obtain green cards for their foreign spouses, the same status is not available for same-sex relationships, whether they be marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.  The Defense of Marriage Act, adopted in 1996, bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or variations thereof.  While immigration officials have been quick to clarify that the delay of decisions is not a change in policy, per se, this action follows the Obama administration’s announcement in February that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts.  Effectively a suspension of immigration cases involving gay married couples, the announcement bolstered arguments from gay rights advocates seeking repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.  It remains to be seen how the Congress responds to this action by the administration and whether the Defense of Marriage Act remains the law.

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