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QUESTION: Now That DOMA’s Dead, Are Same Sex Married Couples Eligible For Immigration Benefits?


On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, ruled that the definition of “marriage” and “spouse” as enumerated in the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) is UNCONSTITUTIONAL! The Supreme Court ruled that DOMA, in its current form, deprives persons of due process and equal protection under the constitution.

But what does this mean for a same-sex married couple with a partner in need of immigration benefits?

Steven J. Mandel, a noted Family Law and Immigration Law attorney from The Mandel Law Firm in New York City explains that in 1996, Congress passed and the President signed into law DOMA, in anticipation of same-sex marriage becoming legal in the United States. Even when a State allowed same-sex marriage, no sister State or Federal agency was required to extend any benefits to these married couples. This included the United States Customs and Immigration Service, which denied same-sex married couples the right to petition for immigration benefits, such as citizenship.

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has found that sections of DOMA are unconstitutional, the Federal government is required to extend the same benefits to all married couples, irrespective of their sexual orientation. This ruling means a same-sex spouse (who is a United States citizen) may now apply for the other to obtain permanent residency, to obtain citizenship through Naturalization, to obtain relief from removal proceedings and so much more!

Steve Mandel cautions that this does not mean that a State that does not recognize same-sex marriage will be forced to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision as to who may marry is currently a “States right”, to be determined by each State individually. The recent Supreme Court decision simply means that the Federal government must now recognize same-sex marriage from the 13 States, District of Columbia and other countries that have made same-sex marriage legal, and afford these couples the totality of Federal rights and benefits.

As a longtime supporter of Marriage Equality, Steve Mandel and The Mandel Law Firm look forward to assisting same-sex married couples in fighting deportation, obtaining “Green cards” and obtaining full citizenship.

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