DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional! Questions Raised for Same Sex Couples Moving Forward

Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), describing the federal law as an assault on fundamental human rights. In his opinion, Justice Kennedy said the law served “no legitimate purpose” to justify the effect of the law, and was a way to “disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
In concluding the decision, the Supreme Court concluded that “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimeswithin the same State. It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect.”
In response to this decision, President Obama stated in a statement released by the White House the federal law “treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,” He said the Supreme Court has “righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”
AILA President Laura Lichter expressed her approval of this decision by saying “Same sex bi-national couples have fought long and hard for the right to keep their families together. It’s only fair that if a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is legally married-regardless of sexual orientation-that their lawful marriage be recognized by the federal government when it comes to immigration issues.”
She continued, “Because of DOMA, bi-national same sex couples often had to choose between staying together, but leaving the U.S., or splitting apart. Over 30 countries provide immigration benefits for same sex couples and we have seen firsthand the incredible toll of this unconstitutional discrimination. Any American would agree that being forced to choose between your homeland and your loved one is a heart-breaking choice.”
Ms. Lichter concluded, “Allowing our immigration system to recognize same sex bi-national couples will also make America more attractive to global talent. According to Immigration Equality, there are an estimated 36,000 same sex bi-national couples in the United States, and those families include 25,000 children. AILA believes that LGBT/same sex families should be included in the definition of the American family and that should be reflected in our immigration laws. I’m ecstatic that the Supreme Court’s ruling today should guarantee all lawfully married couples equal rights in regards to immigration.”
Ms. Lichter’s statements echo what many bi-national same sex couples hope will be realized moving forward with this decision. The questions surrounding family immigration will hopefully be answered by the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS in the days following this decision. It is clear that with DOMA being struck down, many bi-national couples should be eligible to become and remain united here in the U.S.