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Los Angeles, CA Estate & Business Planning Blog

Monday, March 10, 2014

Important Changes in Immigration Policy for LGBT Couples

The U.S. Supreme Court repealed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, which resulted in a slew of enhanced rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, families. LGBT couples and families who are binational benefit from the repeal of Section 3 as it pertains to immigration.

Before the repeal, the federal government didn’t recognize LGBT, or same-sex marriages, therefore excluding these couples from a variety of federal benefits enjoyed by those in “traditional” marriages. Not only does the repeal of Section 3 require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal to marry someone of the same gender, but the repeal also extends the rights of LGBT families in terms of immigration: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adopted Section 3’s definition of marriage into its immigration law and policies, and now must amend its policies according to the repeal.

The federal government is mandated to provide the same rights to LGBT U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) that were previously only extended to opposite-sex marriages. Now, legally married LGBT citizens or LPRs are allowed to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. According to the Center for American Progress website, approximately 24,700 LGBT couples were denied the ability to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for family-based immigration before the repeal of Section 3.

Defining marriage by the terms DOMA laid out in 1996 caused countless hardships for LGBT families that included one or more non-U.S. citizen. They were not eligible for family-based immigration due to the fact that they were in a same-sex marriage and had to choose between their country and the people they cared about.

Originally passed in 1996, Section 3 of DOMA defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Why did marriage need to be defined? The government needed to put marriage in certain terms for the purpose of federal administrative policies. But, many of the circumstances surrounding marriage have changed in the nearly 20 years since Section 3 was passed, so it’s appropriate to adjust the laws to reflect those changes.


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