Colorado leading the way in granting rights to LGBT immigrants

While a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system has been front page news lately, one thing that has been lost in the discussion is the status of LGBT undocumented immigrants and their legal rights.

According to an analysis by the Williams Institute, 30 percent of the nearly 1 million LGBT immigrants living in the United States are undocumented. That means they are caught in a no man’s land of double minority status, hindering their ability to live and work in the country.

Colorado attempts to remedy situation
Colorado is one state that is working to bring many of those undocumented LGBT immigrants out of the legal shadows. Despite being a state that doesn’t allow gay marriage, it responded to the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act by almost immediately enabling same-sex couples to sponsor their undocumented partners for citizenship or a green card, as long as they have a marriage certificate from another state that allows the practice.

“What that means is that if you live in a state that does not recognize marriage equality like Colorado, the federal government will still recognize immigration benefits in Colorado,” Bryon Large, an immigration attorney in Aurora, Colo., told the Public News Service.

After the Supreme Court ruling, U.S. immigration officials began recognizing marriage licenses from states where the practice is allowed, instead of focusing solely on the couple’s place of residence. That has opened up opportunities for couples in places like Colorado, which only performs civil unions, to grant the full rights of marriage to LGBT immigrants.

“Being able to sponsor a partner for citizenship has been a longstanding part of who we are as Americans,” Mindy Barton, legal director of the LGBT Community Center of Colorado, told the Service. “So being able to have equal treatment of gay and lesbian spouses is vitally important to being able to achieve full equality.”