Last month, the Obama administration determined that the law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional. That is why an announcement made by immigration officials in Washington on Monday stating that they were going to delay decisions on some immigration cases involving gay couples led to a surge of expectations among gay advocates that the president had taken a small but significant step toward recognizing same-sex marriage for adjustment of immigration status. However, that was not the case.
Immigration officials have since clarified their stance on the matter, shattering the hopes of many by stating that they have not made any policy changes that would provide an opening to gay couples.
While it is routine for American citizens in heterosexual couples to obtain green cards for their foreign spouses, the Defense of Marriage Act has barred such status for immigrants in same-sex marriages. The situation has long been a focus of criticism by gay rights groups who argue that the law is particularly discriminatory against immigrants. As one person put it, “If you are a bi-national couple that is heterosexual, you get to stay here and work here. If you are gay, you get deported.”
In February, President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder announced that the administration would no longer defend the Marriage Act in the courts, but would continue to enforce the 1996 law until it is changed by the judicial or legislative branches. This new position has led to a host of dilemmas for federal agencies that continue to enforce the law, and has caused a confusion that has recently led the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to suspend cases involving gay couples until they figure out how to legally interpret this change in policy. However, an agency official said that the suspension will be for a short period, and that they would probably resume action on same-sex marriage cases in coming days and would continue to deny immigration status to foreigners based on those marriages. While we believe the moment is ripe with opportunity to embrace homosexual couples and recognize their marriages as legal for immigration purposes, we are skeptical about such an outcome occurring at this time. Nevertheless, we shall remain hopeful and keep you posted on any future developments.