Senator Leahy Introduces Amendment to Immigration Bill to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages
Leahy Proposes Two Amendments to Give Green Cards to Gay and Lesbian Couples
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced an amendment to the pending Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Bill that recognizes marriages of lesbian and gay couples for immigration purposes. The amendment carves out the first-ever exception from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which currently denies recognition of same-sex marriages under all federal laws.
DOMA Project co-founder, immigration and LGBT rights attorney Lavi Soloway reacted to the announcement of the marriage recognition amendment, calling it a “strategic masterstroke”:
“With Senator Leahy’s ingenious move, DOMA is once again front and center as the villain that has prevented gay Americans from sponsoring their foreign-born partners and spouses for green cards, and has torn apart so many LGBT families. Comprehensive immigration reform must include resolution of the catastrophic and, in many cases, irreparable harm caused to lesbian and gay binational couples, their children, and their extended families because of DOMA. Senator Leahy has deftly forced that issue to the surface, and in the process he has reminded all advocates that this legislative effort cannot be comprehensive as long as one group of American citizens are denied equal protection under the laws.
“Senator Leahy’s marriage amendment to the pending Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill is nothing short of a strategic master stroke. With this amendment, lesbian and gay binational couples would have immediate access to green cards and fiancé(e) visas even if DOMA remains the law of the land. Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the other amendment introduced today to recognize same-sex partners of American citizens for immigration purposes, would be immediately inoperative if the marriage amendment were passed into law, because the key component of UAFA is the creation of the ‘permanent partner’ category, which only exists as long as same-sex marriages are not recognized under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Senator Leahy has demonstrated today that he is a fierce advocate for LGBT equality.”
If passed, the amendment would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign born partners access to all marriage-related provisions of our immigration law including green cards for their spouses and fiancé(e) visas. Leahy’s amendment would ensure that the marriages of same-sex binational couples would be recognized for every aspect of U.S. immigration law exactly as the marriages of opposite-sex couples are recognized today.
Over the past three years The DOMA Project has filed over 70 green card petitions on behalf of gay and lesbian couples, and appealed 45 of those cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The petitions that were denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services all contained the following dispassionate and offensive language: “Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA, your petition must be denied.” Leahy’s amendment would relegate these denials to history.
The amendment offered by Leahy would correct this injustice by amending the Immigration and Naturalization Act with the following language:
“Notwithstanding [DOMA], an individual shall be considered a ‘spouse’ and a marriage shall be considered a ‘marriage’ for the purposes of this Act if the marriage of the individual is valid in the State in which the marriage was entered into, etc.”
Immediately upon enactment, married gay and lesbian couples would be able to petition for family based green cards for their spouses. Unmarried gay and lesbian couples would have access to fiancé(e) visas just as opposite sex couples do today.
In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Windsor vs. United States, a case challenging DOMA Section 3, in March. The Court’s ruling is expected in June.
The Leahy amendment is a critically important measure that give lesbian and gay binational couples equal access to family based immigration provisions in the event that the Supreme Court does not strike down DOMA Section 3 next month.
For more information about today’s announcement, or to schedule an interview, please contact Project Associate Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project.
Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder
Derek Tripp, Project Associate