After the misleadingly titled federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) was overturned on June 26, 2013, I was contacted by several couples wishing to file for their binational spouses. Some of these couples have waited as much as 20 years for official recognition of their relationships and the same rights as opposite-sex couples, including immigration rights.
After the ruling, we were advised by the Obama administration that there would be no obstacles to obtaining legal permanent residence for binational couples, provided there was sufficient proof of a bona fide relationship based on love - not just for immigration purposes. This is the same requirement for opposite-sex couples.
Within a week after the DOMA was overturned, I applied for the first of my LGBT clients - a lesbian couple - to obtain permanent legal residency for the binational spouse. Less than four months later, we met with an officer at the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) to demonstrate that the relationship was indeed valid, and that there were sufficient funds earned by the United States Citizen to support her spouse.
In preparation, I provided more than an ample amount of supporting documentation, including proof of home-ownership, children’s birth certificates, banking information, photographs with friends and family, joint utility bills as well as pertinent affidavits so immigration officers would see the strong evidence of a legitimate relationship.
After a few questions from the immigration officer, approval was voiced to us on the spot. A loving couple finally received the proper recognition of their relationship after years of waiting.
2013 is a year that will be remembered as a crucial turn of events in civil rights’ history. The historic defeat of DOMA was topped by the steady stream of states enacting marriage equality, including Illinois, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, and of course New Jersey!
Let’s hope that in 2014 other states will choose progress over politics.