Section III of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last week. The reconsideration was sparked by the debate surrounding gay marriage, since DOMA initially defined marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, this momentous change in detail opens doors for nearly 26,000 same-sex couples nationwide, in which one partner is not a legal United States citizen. Some of these non-citizen partners, within the past decade especially, have been forced to leave the country through deportation. Some couples have left the U.S. entirely to begin new lives abroad, where they can live and work legally.
Because same-sex marriage has not been included within the boundaries of legal marriage, historically gay non-citizens would never have the chance to gain citizenship through marriage. However, last week's newsworthy DOMA ruling is a game-changer within these situations of immigration law. Now, the federal government must recognize marriage between couples of the same-sex – with a current partner that is an already legal and withstanding United States citizen – and additionally, recognize the opportunity to apply for green cards and potentially become legal citizens.
More specifically, beyond filling out necessary paperwork, the foreign spouse will be responsible for receiving a medical exam, showing proof they are economically sufficient, and provide evidence that he or she has initially entered the county legally.
MSNBC reports Immigration Equality, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring equality for self-identified LGBT immigrants, had contributed to the inclusion of immigrants into the latest news on United States v. Windsor. The group had "worked with the Obama administration to ensure every couple who has waited so long is treated equally under the law, and that green card applications are approved fairly and without delay" in anticipation of the ruling.
Furthermore, this is excellent news for the LGBT and immigrant communities, and especially those that identify themselves in both categories. Not only does DOMA have the potential to benefit the LGBT community at large and even straight women through the deconstruction of traditional gender roles, but also it now opens doors for gay immigrants to soon become potential legal U.S. citizens.