Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was joined today by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Patty Murray (D-WA) in urging Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to temporarily put on hold immigration cases involving permanent resident status and deportation orders regarding same-sex foreign-born spouses of LGBT couples until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA later this year. Currently, federal immigration benefits do not extend to same-sex couples under DOMA, which places undue hardship on these families while they wait for DOMA cases to be ruled upon by the high court. Already, first and second circuit federal appeals courts have deemed DOMA unconstitutional, as has the Obama administration, whose policy is to no longer prosecute those cases.
“The Supreme Court will soon have its voice heard on this discriminatory policy that has already been deemed unconstitutional by two federal courts,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In light of those earlier decisions, we must lift the hardship for LGBT families who live in fear of separation based on this antiquated law until the Supreme Court rules. Regardless of the Court’s ultimate decision, it is well past time for Congress to recognize the marriages of all loving and committed couples and finally put the discriminatory DOMA policy into the dustbin of history.”
The Senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, “We urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage. Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.”
DOMA currently prohibits federal immigration benefits for binational LGBT couples, including petitioning on behalf of a foreign-born spouse for a permanent resident visa. As a result, officials have consistently denied same-sex couples’ applications, leaving many in immigration limbo without legal status, in fear of separation from their loved ones and potential deportation.
To ensure that foreign-born LGBT spouses would be able to remain with their families in the U.S. and be allowed to work and freely travel during the time leading up to the Supreme Court verdict, the Senators urged the Homeland Security Department to “hold in abeyance” binational LGBT couples’ immigration petitions and applications and called on the Justice Department to issue a moratorium for deportation cases involving binational LGBT couples who would be eligible for U.S. residency, if not for DOMA.
Full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
Dear Mr. Attorney General and Madam Secretary:
We continue to applaud the President for his decision not to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (‘DOMA’) in federal court. We also applaud the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for including “long-term same-sex partners” under the Administration’s policy that suspends deportations of some immigrants who pose no security risk. These developments are steps in the right direction, but DOMA is still the law of the land and continues to discriminate against a class of Americans.
Following the 2012 election, there are now nine states and the District of Columbia recognizing same-sex marriage with several other states granting similar rights. However with DOMA as law, we are creating a tier of second-class families in these States. DOMA prevents same-sex immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens from successfully applying for permanent resident visas. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Windsor v. U.S. and will determine the constitutionality of DOMA in the next term; by June we will know whether or not applications for lawful permanent residence for lesbian and gay spouses will ultimately be approvable.
Given the historic nature of Windsor v. U.S., we urge DHS to hold marriage-based immigration petitions in abeyance until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on same-sex marriage. Holding these cases in abeyance for a few months will prevent hardship to LGBT immigrant families. We also call upon the Department of Justice to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by the immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would be otherwise eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident but for DOMA. By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision.
Preserving family unity is a fundamental American value and is the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration law. Thank you for your decision not to defend the constitutionality of a law that hurts so many families and for your consideration of this request.