Op-ed: DOMA, the First Battle in the Immigration War

What's next on the horizon for immigration and LGBT people?

BY Rebecca Isaacs

July 02 2013 3:03 AM ET

Traian Popov (left) and Julian Marsh. Marsh is the first married gay American to successfully petition for a green card for his spouse.

On Wednesday, just 30 minutes after the Supreme Court announced its decision striking down section 3 the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a New York judge halted the deportation of a Colombian man married to a gay American citizen.

Today, now that DOMA is dead, Inger Knudson-Judd can finally get a green card that allows her British wife to return to America. After spending four years raising their daughter while separated by 5,000 miles, their family will soon be reunited.

This is our new reality, and it’s a reality to celebrate.

Under DOMA, legally married same-sex couples were denied the security and protection provided to every other married couple. Families were needlessly torn apart because the federal government refused to recognize them.

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down that portion of DOMA provides to thousands of families equality under the law and the opportunity to be together, stay together, and love together. It’s long overdue.

Now legally married same-sex couples no longer need to fear being torn apart simply because the federal government did not treat their marriages with dignity and respect. Now lesbian and gay American citizens will now be able to apply for green cards on behalf of their foreign national spouses — just like any other married couple. Now two people in love will be able to keep their family together.

To be sure, immigration law is complicated, and barriers will still exist for some same-sex couples. But no longer will green card applications be denied solely because of sexual orientation. Even if you are lawfully married but don’t live in a marriage equality state, your marriage makes you eligible to apply for a green card. And three years after obtaining a green card, a spouse can apply to become a U.S. resident.

The historic and much-needed demise of this provision of DOMA will provide an estimated 28,500 same-sex binational couples with an easier roadmap to citizenship. And for that, we rejoice; we have taken an important step on our journey to equality.

At right: Philippa and Inger Knudson-Judd

But we have not yet reached our destination.

We are still fighting for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, including at least 267,000 LGBT immigrants. These are LGBT asylum-seekers, single LGBT immigrants with families that can’t sponsor them, and LGBT couples where both are undocumented.

As Congress debates critical immigration reform issues, we will continue to advocate for family unity and for the most accessible roadmap to citizenship possible. We will continue to ardently oppose draconian amendments that will create undue hardships and make all immigrants, including those who are LGBT, permanent second-class members of our society.

So much remains to be done in order for all of America’s immigrant families to be able to live with dignity, pursue their dreams, and work for a better future and quality of life. As we celebrate the end of DOMA and the opportunity that brings, we also recognize that our fight for equality for all continues.
 
REBECCA ISAACS is the executive director of the Equality Federation.

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