Originally published on Advocate.com May 23 2012 10:44 AM ET
A binational lesbian couple in Vermont who sued the federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act have been granted a reprieve from deportation proceedings.
The decision by immigration officials to grant what’s known as deferred action for two years in the case of Takako Ueda, a Japanese national married to her American spouse, Frances Herbert, is unrelated to the DOMA lawsuit the couple filed last month along with four other binational couples. That suit against the 1996 law, which bars immigration sponsorship privileges for same-sex couples, is currently pending in federal court in New York.
But the decision by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services prevents Ueda from accruing unlawful status in the country, which could hinder attempts for establishing permanent residency.
The letter from USCIS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, allows Ueda to seek authorization to work and apply for a Vermont driver's license. She and Herbert said Ueda had been able to drive while covered by a now-expired student visa and, given that they live in rural southern Vermont, that privilege had been difficult to live without since the visa expired.
The letter came about two weeks after President Barack Obama stated publicly for the first time that he supports same-sex marriage.
"It can't hurt," Herbert said. "I'm sure having the leader of the country come out and support same-sex marriage gives permission to other groups that maybe have been on the fence to say OK, we can do the same."
Two other gay binational couples – Bradford Wells and Anthony Makk in San Francisco, and Edwin Blesch and Tim Smulian in Long Island, N.Y. – have also been granted deferred action from deportation proceedings over the past year.