Changes to Immigration Policy May Help Gay Couples


The Obama administration announced this past week that it will be implementing a new policy when it comes to prioritizing immigration cases that has the potential to benefit married binational same-sex couples that currently face being separated.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages which for the purposes of immigration means that an American-born citizen in a same-sex marriage cannot sponsor their foreign-born partner for citizenship. This has led to numerous cases where same-sex couples have been split apart due to no fault of their own.

However, the administration announced this week that it would be implementing a new case-by-case review process of 300,000 undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation so that the administration can determine which cases are high priority and which are low priority and pursue them accordingly. Obviously, for same-sex couples who have followed immigration rules closely and would otherwise qualify for spousal sponsorship, this could save them from being separated.

From the Washington Blade:

Administration officials will weigh a person’s ties and contributions to the community and family relationships. During an on background conference call with media outlets on Thursday, a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said these criteria are inclusive of LGBT families and same-sex couples.

“The prosecutorial discretion memo provides for the use of discretion for people with strong community ties, with community contributions and with family relationships,” the official said. “We consider LGBT families to be families in this context.”

Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality is quoted by Metro Weekly as saying that this is “great news” for binational same-sex couples already facing deportation, but clarified this change will offer relief to those couples who have reached a stage of imminent removal. He added that Immigration Equality is “still waiting on the administration to provide some relief for all couples even before they are out of status and before they are already facing the prospect of imminent removal.”

The administration’s new announcement does however build on a June 17 memo that spelled out immigration officials have discretionary powers to assess which cases they feel to be a priority — this order was not explicitly LGBT inclusive, so the administration’s latest statement affirming LGBT inclusion is of considerable importance.

A case most recently in the news was that of U.S. born Bradford Wells and his partner Australian born Anthony John Makk who despite a 19-year relationship, seven of those married,  saw Makk’s application for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen denied because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act even though Makk meets all other requirements for residency. Read more about the couple’s story here.

Related Reading:

How does DOMA Hurt Same-Sex Couples?

Bankruptcy Court: Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Boehner Regarding DOMA Defense

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Atomische Tom Giebel

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Laura Saxon
Past Member 2 years ago

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Kevin D.
Kevin D.2 years ago

Again, everyone lost when they gave the power to the government to define marriage. The definition of marriage should be a freedom of speech issue. Now you are at the mercy of whoever is in power. Don't kid yourselves--both parties are manipulating you.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago

GLBT rights are human rights and everybody deserves equality. Thanks Steve.

Tammy Birch
Tammy Birch4 years ago

I am 100% for equality for all LGBT rights!

Hayley Zacheis
Hayley Zacheis4 years ago

My heart goes out to all those LGBT couples that are being broken up because of DOMA. This is great news that they're starting to reconsider the policy; hopefully soon DOMA will be abolished, too!

Anagha Rajeev
Anagha Rajeev4 years ago

thnx 4 sharing :)

Franco Di Palma
Franco Di Palma4 years ago

Best of luck to all of you out there.

Berny P.
Berny p.4 years ago

I somehow doubt that the case-by-case review is specifically aimed at helping gay couples.

Especially those that broke the law to come here in the first place!

Christopher C.
Chris C.4 years ago

All the best from my heart to all the LGBT couples trying to make it so their loved ones can stay here with them in America!