With DOMA Dead, LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform Becomes Moot Point

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2013 4:30 PM ET

When the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday, it cleared the way for married same-sex couples to access a litany of federal benefits, including tax breaks and military spousal benefits. 

But many gay and lesbian couples with a partner who was born outside the U.S. were most excited to discover that the death of DOMA means they can finally sponsor their foreign-born spouse for citizenship. LGBT organizations like Immigration Equality and The DOMA Project heralded the landmark rulings. And on Wednesday, a key ally to binational LGBT families in the U.S. Senate announced that in light of the court's ruling, he was abandoning efforts to include language protecting binational same-sex couples in current immigration reform — because the issue has been effectively resolved by the nation's highest court. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who introduced and  then withdrew "with a heavy heart" an amendment to the congressional immigration reform bill that would allow married gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for citizenship, issued a statement saying he won't try to squeeze the amendment into comprehensive immigration reform.

"With the Supreme Court’s decision today, it appears that the antidiscrimination principle that I have long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and binational couples can now be united under the law,” Leahy said in a press release. "As a result of this welcome decision, I will not be seeking a floor vote on my amendment."

The Human Rights Campaign also issued a release that alluded to the same conclusion reached by Leahy — now that same-sex couples can sponsor their spouses for citizenship, the need for enumerated protections in immigration reform isn't as dire. 

"The bipartisan immigration reform bill passed in the Senate today will benefit millions of immigrants across our nation — including LGBT immigrants," said HRC president Chad Griffin. The release went on to note that immigration reform, passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday by a bipartisan vote of 68-32, would abolish the arbitrary one-year filing deadline for those seeking asylum, including those who fled their home country after being persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Federal agencies continue to announce various specific benefits that will now be available to married same-sex couples, and HRC has a compiled a list of frequently asked questions surrounding changes in immigration law in the wake of the DOMA ruling.