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DOMA 1 Year Later: Its Effect on LGBT Immigration and Green Cards

As the one year anniversary since the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down approaches, it is a good time to reflect on how far U.S. immigration laws have progressed in just a few short months – extending the reach of its benefits to LGBT the many changes this has meant for same sex couples

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two landmark cases which was a boon for LGBT rights. Hollingsworth v. Perry decided whether the Constitution barred California from limiting marriage strictly between a man and a woman. In its ruling, the Supreme Court lifted the 9th Circuit ban on gay marriage – thereby making same-sex marriage legal in California.

United States v. Windsor was based on a challenge denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples under DOMA. The Supreme Court struck down provisions of DOMA as unconstitutional, and as a result allowed the same federal benefits to married same-sex couples as traditional married couples.

Under U.S. immigration law, a U.S. citizen married to a foreign national may sponsor the foreign citizen for permanent residency – also known as a green card. Prior to the Windsor case, this benefit was not extended to legally married same–sex couples. Once DOMA was struck down, however, American spouses of foreign same-sex spouses were instantly able to sponsor the foreign spouse for a green card. Within a day of the ruling, the USCIS announced that it would begin accepting same-sex green card petitions – with the first one being approved merely a few days later. It was later confirmed that this benefit extended to fiancé visas – where a U.S. citizen could sponsor his/her foreign same sex fiancé under a K-1 visa.

As of the time this article was published, the following states permit same sex marriage: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

LGBT rights have come a long way in a short time. Immigration is just one of the newly acquired benefits associated with the downfall of DOMA.  Maximilian Law Inc. is a strong advocate of LGBT rights and has successfully obtained green cards for many clients in same sex marriages.