I had the privilege to attend the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) National Conference on Immigration in San Francisco the last week of June. Timing is everything. I awoke at 7 a.m. Pacific Time, 10 a.m. on the East Coast, the exact time that the United States Supreme Court released their Opinion to overturn a crucial provision of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), ending the blatant discrimination we have come to live with against LGBT peoples. This major civil rights event shall be forevermore a turning point in our country and a starting point to eradicate the bigotry and hatred that has existed for much too long.
I arrived at the conference and immediately attended an emergent seminar to address the wide-ranging immigration implications of the decision on the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender couples. As I entered the room I heard the panel of experts affirmatively state that we may now immediately file for all of our clients, no matter of their sexual orientation, if there is a bona fide marriage with a United States Citizen, and the foreign national entered the U.S. initially with inspection at one of the borders. All marriages, domestic or foreign, will be treated equally in all jurisdictions for immigration purposes.
This is a major change for all and so I feel it bears repeating. If a person comes into the United States with a valid visa, and is married to a U.S. citizen (no matter their gender), as long as we can prove that they have a bona fide, valid marriage, they are entitled to the same due process under the law.
Even in states where marriage equality is prohibited by constitutional amendment, the immigration law now states that same sex marriages will be honored with the same legal benefits as different sex marriages. This will apply everywhere, as long as the marriage was celebrated in one of the 13 states where marriage equality is lawful. It does not matter as to the state of residence of the couple.
After the historic, educational week in San Francisco, I was thrilled to put what I had learned to the test when I returned to work the following Monday. I met with my first clients to take advantage of their new rights. We had all learned that the Department of Homeland Security had approved the first petition for a same sex couple in Florida, not a LGBT-friendly state as far as the law is concerned and where same sex marriage is banned.
It is my fervent wish that we, as a country, have moved past the era of singling out groups for different discriminatory treatment, and that people throughout the country will honor equality in all avenues of the law.