by Jessica Kim Cohen
JCUA Intern, Communications
The Supreme Court ruling against DOMA broadens the spectrum of families that will be protected under the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, if passed. Legally married same-sex couples will now have the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples, and will be allowed to sponsor their spouses for Permanent Resident status.
On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, many were excited to hear that the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the “Defense of Marriage Act,” or DOMA, unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote. Most notably, this means that the federal government must now recognize same-sex marriages and grant them the same benefits as heterosexual married couples.
Although the work for marriage equality is not yet done (for example, many states do not legally recognize same-sex marriages), this historical decision still gives hope for strengthening our immigration system, especially in the context of our current immigration fight for SB 744.
The ruling against DOMA broadens the spectrum of families that will be protected under the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, if passed. Legally married same-sex couples will now have the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples, and will be allowed to sponsor their spouses for Permanent Resident status (a “green card”).
Before this ruling, immigrants in same-sex marriages could not apply for Permanent Resident status, as they were not recognized as legal marriages on the federal level. In effect, this led many bi-national same-sex couples to have to choose between separation from their spouse or their country, a choice unfair for anyone.
Beyond this, many believe that the DOMA ruling will help the odds of passing comprehensive immigration reform.
Previously, Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat, had considered proposing an amendment that would have supported same-sex couples in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.
However, he was under pressure from liberals and conservatives alike to forego bringing the amendment to the floor: Republicans in favor of immigration reform said that they would no longer support the bill with such an amendment, putting Democrats in a compromising position.
Now, since the Supreme Court has effectively ruled on this issue, this saves both the Senate and the House from having to discuss what would have been a contentious issue. The bill now has the potential to gain the support of moderate Republicans who are in favor of immigration reform, but not marriage equality, without forcing representatives in favor of marriage equality to vote in opposition of a progressive amendment.