Five Binational Same-Sex Couples Challenge DOMA

by
Share This Article

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
  Five binational same-sex married couples filed suit Monday against the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, The Advocate reports. The couples -- who, despite being legally married, are still barred from sponsoring the foreign spouse for permanent residency -- are being represented by Immigration Equality. According to the lawsuit, the federal government's refusal to extend spousal sponsorship rights to same-sex couples not only violates their constitutional right to equal protection, it also goes against the government's push to keep families together:
The discriminatory impact of DOMA is particularly acute in the immigration context. For immigration purposes, whether the federal government recognizes a couple's marriage can determine whether a family may remain in the United States and live together, or may be torn apart. The ability to maintain their families together is, of course, of the highest concern for the Plaintiff couples and for thousands of other bi-national couples in this country. But the federal government also has set the preservation of families as a national priority. That is why the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") allows a United States citizen to file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") on behalf of a foreign national spouse for classification as an immediate relative and allows immediate relatives to apply for lawful permanent resident status and to remain lawfully in the United States. There is no annual limit on the number of visas available to foreign national spouses of American citizens. As a nation, we want to keep families together, not rip them apart.
It's one thing to deny same-sex couples to the right to marry, but forcing families to live in separate nations, or even continents, is particularly cruel. The current base case scenario finds U.S. citizens moving to their spouse's country of origin. But that's not always an option, as it depends on that country either recognizing same-sex marriage or granting the U.S. spouse a work or other visa (and the couple having the financial resources to make it happen). Plaintiff Kelli Ryan acknowledged to The Advocate that not all binational couples are as lucky as she and her wife, UK citizen and Yale postdoctoral fellow Lucy Truman, have been. That's what prompted them to file suit. “We’re both proud to do this,†Ryan said. “I think it’s one of the biggest things we’ve ever done in our lives. We find that when we talk to people about this, they’re shocked that I can’t sponsor Lucy. This particular aspect of DOMA may affect a smaller percentage of people, but the impact of the law in these cases is huge.†The April 2 suit joins a number of challenges to DOMA already working their way through the court system. The federal government is expected to decline to defend the challenge, leaving it to the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to intervene. Erin Rook is a staff writer for PQ Monthly. Erin can be reached at erin@pqmonthly.com.