Why Marriage Matters to Binational Couples
Approximately 35,820 of the 594,391 same-sex unmarried partner couples counted in Census 2000 are binational couples (couples in which the partners are citizens of different countries). Among binational couples, more than a third of same-sex male couples and 58% of female same-sex couples report having children under age 18 in the home. These children are less likely to be citizens than children raised by binational married couples.
For many years, married binational same-sex couples were unable to keep their families together in the United States because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA, extending many federal protections and responsibilities of marriage - including the ability to sponsor your spouse for a green card.
The statement from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, issued on July 1, reads:
After last week's decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly. To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.
The government has also made clear that gay and lesbian Americans can sponsor green cards for their legal spouses even if they live in a state that does not respect marriages between same-sex couples. The department states:
In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.
Freedom to Marry has continually spoken out against offensive anti-immigrant measures, such as Arizona’s SB1070 passed in May 2010. Such measures invite discrimination and abuse, and are part of an anti-immigrant hysteria that is inimical to America's interests and the Golden Rule.
Blog Posts Related to Binational Couples
This week, the DHS issued a statement that formalizes the new post-DOMA policy that gay and lesbian Americans can sponsor their married foreign national spouses for immigration purposes. At last, married binational same-sex couples will no longer fear separation from each other or be forced to live their lives in legal limbo.
In recent years, Sion has learned the power of photography, and he has worked hard to develop his photographic passions in order to share stories of why marriage matters, how same-sex couples share the same love and commitment that different-sex couples share, and why DOMA needs to be overturned.
When Juka Mendes moved to the US on a student visa, he never expected to fall in love. But he did, and got married to Air Force member Jonathan Malumay. Now, Juka can no longer afford his education, and in April his visa expires. As a service member, Jonathan is eligible for an education grant that he should be able to transfer to his husband, but because DOMA does not respect his marriage, he cannot do so.
Resources Related to Binational Couples
Penn State law professor, Victor C. Romero, examines marriage equality and it’s impact on binational couples in the APA community.
Story of a binational same-sex couple at the mercy of the Defense of Marriage Act, presented by GLAD.
In this report, binational couples tell stories of abuse by immigration officials and even deportation.