In 2013, the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Thanks to this decision, same-sex marriages between lawful permanent U.S. residents and noncitizens are now treated the same way as traditional marriages by the federal government. Now, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants equal immigration benefits to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Previously, DOMA defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, which prevented same-sex couples from being eligible for more than 1,000 benefits and federal programs.
The decision to overturn Section 3 in 2013 also affected the immigrant children of same-sex couples. Under immigration law, lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are allowed to invite their children who are under 21 years of age to live in the U.S. Previously, the law defined the parent-child relationship with terms like “adoption,” “born in wedlock” and “stepchild” because before the overturn of Section 3, the assumption was that immigrant families were made up of married heterosexual couples raising biological or adopted children.
However, this assumption does not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples, who form families in different ways. Children in these families may have been conceived through artificial insemination or via a surrogate. Children may have also been adopted or be the biological children of only one spouse. Under DOMA, if the spouse was not biologically related to the child or named on the adoption forms, their relationship with the child was not recognized under immigration law. This is because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government.
Now that Section 3 has been overturned, however, the federal government does recognize same-sex marriages, and LGBT families made up of immigrants and citizens are eligible for the same benefits as opposite-sex families. Now, immigrants who file an application for permanent residency for a same-sex spouse can do so for the spouse’s children as well.