WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Friday finalized new guidelines to allow same-sex couples the same immigration rights as their traditionally married counterparts.
The guidelines, which were issued by the Department of Homeland Security, were crafted in response to the Supreme Court's overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. Under the guidelines, non-Americans who are married to a U.S. citizen would get the same consideration when applying for legal status, regardless of whether they are in a gay or straight relationship. In addition, DHS announced that those same-sex spouses who had previously petitioned immigration service officials for such status would have their files reopened, as opposed to having to re-file those petitions. DHS will also give consideration to same-sex couples who are engaged to be married but not married yet.
The change in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy is another in a series of executive actions that have been taken to accommodate the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling. It is also further evidence of how significant that ruling has been in the lives of gay couples.
Following the court case, DHS had given out green cards, including to an American man married to a man from Bulgaria who were approved in June after previously being denied by DHS.
There are an estimated 28,500 immigrants with U.S. citizen partners, who have until now either relied on less stable visas and separate avenues for immigration or have been forced to live apart. The Williams Institute at the University of California has estimated that same-sex binational couples are raising nearly 25,000 children.
The DOMA decision was particularly important after immigration reform supporters in the Senate decided not to include provisions for same-sex couples in a bill that passed in June.
The new rules don't entirely fix the woes of same-sex binational couples, because they only apply to those legally married in states that allow for same-sex marriage. But immigration and gay rights advocates applauded the ruling and DHS' decision, which followed quickly thereafter.