This week the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed that it will no longer deny green card applications filed by married same-sex binational couples. They will hold them in abeyance until a final decision is reached on the legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The federal government has never extended immigration benefits to gay couples, but that could change with the White House decision to stop defending the DOMA, the 1996 law that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.
Christopher Bentley, the spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, wrote, “USCIS has issued guidance to the field asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues.” He notes, however, “USCIS has not implemented any change in policy and intends to follow the President’s directive to continue enforcing the law.”
This is a significant victory, because the straight spouses of U.S. citizens are afforded certain benefits under immigration law. For example, they may apply for permanent residency status or green cards, which is a major step toward citizenship.
“Today’s statement is the first domino to fall for LGBT Americans with foreign national spouses,” Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of the advocacy group Immigration Equality, said in a statement.