Gay Couple Spared Deportation

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com June 30 2011 9:40 AM ET

Federal officials have canceled the deportation of Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan married to American citizen Josh Vandiver, in a decision that could have extensive implications for immigration policy affecting same-sex couples.

 The New York Times  reports on the deportation cancellation, which was announced Wednesday by Lavi Soloway, the lawyer for Velandia and Vandiver, who live in New Jersey and were married in Connecticut last year.

“The case has been closely watched across the country by lawyers and advocates who viewed it as a test of the federal government’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages,” reports the Times.

The Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA in the courts in February, but it said it would continue to enforce the law. Advocates had asked the administration to postpone deportations for same-sex married couples until the constitutionality of DOMA was settled.

An immigration judge in Newark suspended deportation for Velandia last month the same day a protest was held outside the federal building. The judge wanted to allow the government more time to consider the issue, and earlier this month Soloway received a call from an arm of the Homeland Security Department saying the agency agreed with his request to close the deportation proceedings, the Times reports.

While the decision could lead to the cancellation of other deportation proceedings against immigrants in same-sex marriages, it does not settle the question of federal recognition for same-sex marriages.