Sunday, June 30, 2013

Equal justice under law – finally

One of the great things about the end of Section 3 of DOMA is the end of gratuitous cruelty against legally married same-gender bi-national couples. For the first time, a US citizen who is married to a non-American of the same gender will be able to sponsor his or her spouse for immigration in exactly the same way that legally married opposite-gender couples can.

In fact, it’s already happened.

Just two days after the US Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA, a gay bi-national couple living in Florida, Julian Marsh and Traian Popov, received word that Julian’s green card petition for his Bulgarian husband was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Previously, all such applications would have been automatically rejected because of DOMA. The couple were married in New York in 2012.

Lavi Soloway, an attorney and Co-Founder of the DOMA Project, noted why this particular case is so important: “It is symbolically important that the first gay couple to receive approval of their green card petition live in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying.”

Unlike some other US agencies, USCIS will be using the “place of celebration” standard to determine if a marriage is recognised for immigration purposes. Other agencies use a different standard, “place of domicile” (where a couple lives), and if immigration used that, then Julian’s application would have been rejected since Florida voters banned marriage equality by amending their state constitution.

Lavi Soloway said, “The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples nationwide is now a reality on the ground.” It may also indicate that this administration is applying the fairest standard, the one most likely to achieve legal equality. I expect that President Obama will make sure other federal agencies use the “place of celebration” standard, unless a specific law requires them to use the other one.

And that’s it: The gratuitous cruelty of the USA’s treatment of same-gender bi-national couples is gone. From now on, no gay American will have to make a choice between the country they love and the love of their life. Just like every American citizen, gay Americans will, for the first time, be able to sponsor the immigration of the person to whom they’re legally married: Straight and gay citizens are equal under the law.

Equal justice under law is at the heart of democratic traditions and values, the thing that’s necessary for liberty itself to exist. It’s hard to believe, but equal justice under law has finally arrived for another segment of LGBT Americans.

Equality feels pretty damn good, too.

Related post on the DOMA Project: Missing husband


rogerogreen said...

Florida! Ha, Rubio!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I know—the irony is wonderful!