DOMA’s Impact on Immigration

The constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is set to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling would have an effect not only on same-sex couples but also on immigration and deportation.

Currently, one possible route to adjusting status to a permanent resident (green card) is through sponsorship of a US citizen spouse. Foreign-born men and women who marry someone of the opposite sex who is an American citizen are eligible to apply for permanent residency and, once residency is granted, can ultimately apply for citizenship. This is not the case for same-sex couples. In forty states, same-sex couples are unable to marry. Furthermore, the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages conducted in the ten states that allow it. This means that foreign-born men and women involved in same-sex relationships are unable to apply for permanent residency due to marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the marriage between persons of the same sex. This law is being challenged for being unconstitutional. The US government has issued an official statement that it cannot support the constitutionality of the law. This leaves the issue solely with the US Supreme Court.

For immigrants in same-sex unions, the challenge remains two-fold. Individual states must legalize same-sex unions. In addition, a Supreme Court ruling is required to strike down the law. Once these steps have taken place, the path to permanent residency will be available for spouses of US citizens, regardless of sex.