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Good News for Gay and Lesbian Immigrants

Posted on Sep 29, 2012
fdenardo1 (CC BY 2.0)

The Department of Homeland Security has emerged as an unlikely advocate for gay rights. The agency will now consider long-term same-sex couples as being in a “family relationship” for immigration purposes.

The law is estimated to affect about 24,000 gay and lesbian couples in the United States where one partner is a citizen of another country, though the number of those couples without immigrant authorization is unknown.

The department, led by Janet Napolitano, was previously unclear about its regard for gay relationships, saying only that it would favor noncitizens with strong family or community ties in the United States. In July, a group of 84 federal lawmakers asked the secretary to recognize gay couples during the deportation process.

The concession to gay immigrants can be seen as the latest maneuver in a campaign by the Obama administration to soften the consequences of immigration law and win the favor of noncitizens. In June, the administration decided to allow young undocumented immigrants who were in school to apply for a deferral of deportation for two years. That order has drawn more than 80,000 applications.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The concession, enshrined in writing in a letter from the DHS secretary, Janet Napolitano, softens one of the most bitterly resented aspects of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman. Under DOMA, immigration rights that are extended to bi-national heterosexual couples are not similarly offered to gays and lesbians.

“One of the most painful aspects of the Defence of Marriage Act is when couples are separated. So we are happy to see the DHS acting on this,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality, a group that advocates for changes in US immigration laws relating to the LGBT community.

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