How will gay marriage rights influence immigration reform?

The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, which was enacted by the U.S. government in 1996 to allow states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that were granted under the laws of other states. This ruling was not only a major victory for U.S. citizens in same-sex relationships, but also for permanent immigrant residents in the U.S. who will now be able to apply for permanent residency for their foreign-born, same-sex spouses.

Some same-sex couples who were finally granted the right to marry in their state experienced problems when the immigrant partner’s green card application interfered with their U.S. visa and they risked deportation. Many couples had to petition against deportations on the grounds of the hardship that it would cause their spouse. But, because of DOMA, many of those couples were denied on the basis that their marriage was not legally recognized under national law. All that changed when DOMA was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on equal-protection grounds. As a result of this decision, the federal government will provide same-sex couples with the same benefits as heterosexual couples. There are currently more than 1,000 laws protecting couples, including the right to apply for green cards for spouses born abroad who married legally but live in the U.S. on temporary visas.

Immigration advocates that support LGBT rights have been pressuring Democrats to focus on the controversial issue of gay immigrants’ rights during the immigration reform debate.
With the new ruling, if bi national same-sex couples reside in a state that doesn’t allow gay marriages, they can travel to one of the states that does allow it and still have their union recognized for immigration purposes, according to legal experts.