The Demise of DOMA: USCIS Now Granting Green Cards to Same-Sex Married Couples

By Rahul Soni

Within two days of the monumental Supreme Court 5-4 ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Section 3, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced that it will grant green cards to petitioning same-sex married couples. DOMA barred the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples for all purposes, including immigration and naturalization benefits. The ruling on June 26, 2013 declared DOMA a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to rule on the merits of California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, but it effectively meant that the federal district court’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 stands. By the end of the week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California. With the Court of Appeals’ action, counties are already granting same-sex marriage licenses. Collectively, the rulings represent a historic advance for gay marriage rights.

Director Mayorkas acknowledged Director of Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s statement from last Wednesday, when she announced, “Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”  Mr. Mayorkas also declared that USCIS will adjudicate applications of previously denied same-sex couples upon a Motion to Reopen initiated by the petitioning married couple. He indicated that USCIS has kept records of all previously denied I-130 petitions that were rejected because marriages were between spouses of the same sex.

Julian Marsh, a United States citizen, and his Bulgarian spouse, Traian Popov, were the first same-sex couple to be approved by USCIS on Friday afternoon, June 28, 2013, just two days after the historic decision. Popov, a Ph.D. student, and Marsh, a world-renowned music producer, married in the State of New York in October 2012. Marsh filed an I-130 family petition for his foreign national husband on February 13, 2013, and received an electronic notice of approval only two days after the historic Supreme Court ruling.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pointedly stated, “I do not believe we should ask Americans to choose between the love of their life and love of their country.”  He passionately exclaimed, “Discriminating against a segment of Americans because of who they love is a travesty and it is ripping many American families apart.” As a matter at the heart of so many of our clients’ futures in the United States, we are delighted  to announce that USCIS has not dragged its feet in administrative revamp, but has begun approving green card petitions of same-sex marriages immediately. On a personal note, as an immigrant and a gay man, this is a truly proud moment in immigration history.


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