March 2011 Archives

March 30, 2011

USCIS Hold Ends As Quickly As It Began

Just two days ago, I blogged about an announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that it would put on hold decisions about cases involving same-sex binational couples--a seeming big step away from the discriminatory policies based on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that have previously dominated the agency's decision-making. Here's an informative Daily Beast story about the hold.

It didn't exactly seem too good to be true--that status would be reserved for an actual repeal of DOMA. However, the hold was apparently too good for something, and it has already been lifted. USCIS announced on March 30, 2011, through press secretary Christopher S. Bentley, that, "The guidance we were awaiting ... was received last night, so the hold is over," and "we're back to adjudicating cases as we always have." Bentley went on to say that USCIS would continue to "enforce the law," in other words refuse to recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of approving green card applications.

Is this the last word on the subject? Not necessarily. With the Justice Department's new position that DOMA is unconstitutional, plans by members of Congress to seek repeal of DOMA, and various cases challenging DOMA winding their way through the U.S. court system, it's likely that the Supreme Court will rule on DOMA's constitutionality within the next few years--which will of course affect green card applications for married same-sex partners.

March 28, 2011

USCIS Puts Same-Sex Partner Green Card Cases on Hold

Responding to President Obama's recent statement regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) has asked its field offices to stop proceedings in any cases involving foreign partners married to same-sex spouses.  In other words, the USCIS will hold off on denying green cards in same-sex marriage cases, while awaiting further word on the status of DOMA. 

In February, the Department of Justice announced it would stop defending Section 3 of DOMA in court. Section 3 is the part of DOMA that stands the way of a citizen sponsoring a same-sex spouse for a green card. 

Last week, a New York immigration judge suspended the deportation of a same-sex spouse from Argentina so that the women could petition for recognition of their marriage under the new administration policy. 
March 24, 2011

Discrimination by Complication: Same-Sex Parents Must Do More

Opposite-sex couples with children don't think much about what would happen if one of them were unable to care for the kids--obviously, the other parent would step in. Likewise, married couples should make wills, but even if they don't, a surviving spouse gets most or all of the deceased spouse's property.

For same-sex couples living in states where neither marriage equality nor relationship recognition (in the form of domestic partnerships or civil unions) has arrived, none of the above is necessarily true. This New York Times article describes the reality for one lesbian couple raising their children in Michigan.
March 14, 2011

New York City Issues Non-Discrimination Policy on Transgender Marriage Licenses

In December of 2009, an opposite-sex couple went to the City Clerk's office in the Bronx and asked for a marriage license. Because the clerk felt that neither would-be spouse looked like the sex listed on the drivers' licenses the two presented, they were asked for their birth certificates and when they could not produce them, were denied a marriage license. 

After the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a complaint last October, New York City responded by issuing a new policy to all city clerks. The new policy states that "City Clerk employees are forbidden from considering the applicant's appearance or preconceived notions related to gender expression when deciding whether to issue a marriage license." You've gotta figure TLDEF wrote that excellent language, right? Either way, though, it's now city policy. 

In addition, the agreement requires the city clerk to apologize to the couple, institute training for employees regarding gender identity and expression, and allow the couple to marry when and where they want.
March 10, 2011

House Republicans Vote to Defend DOMA

Because apparently they've got nothing better to do despite claiming a focus on jobs and economic development, the House GOP voted to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court in the wake of the Justice Department's announcement in February that the DOJ would no longer do so. 

The decision could cost millions of dollars as Congress and the House general counsel will likely hire outside counsel to defend the cases now before the court--currently numbered at 10. 

Seems like a questionable use of taxpayers' money while Congress struggles to pass a budget (the Republican version of which would cut services and jobs), especially given that the President and the administration's lawyer have said that they believe the law is unconstitutional and indefensible