The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is not known for its rapid responsiveness, but that's belied by its announcement recently that same-sex partners of citizens won't automatically be denied green cards, now that the Obama administration has announced it won't fight for the Defense of Marriage Act.
The constitutionality of DOMA is being challenged in two pending cases. The Justice Department announced last month that it would no longer defend Section 3 of the act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. (John Boehner has said the House may defend the act in court, since it was passed by Congress.)
USCIS's announcement doesn't mean any change in the recognition of same sex partners' green card requests. Rather, all applications will be placed on hold, rather than rejected out of hand, effectively meaning that the foreign national half of a gay couple won't be deported.
Immigration Equality, a group that specifically focuses on how current immigration policy tears apart families, issued a statement applauding the move and showing how it affects one of the couples they work with:
Last week, Immigration Equality's legal team filed a green card application on behalf of Edwin Blesch, an American citizen, and Tim Smulian, his South African husband. Despite being legally married in South Africa -– a marriage recognized in Edwin's home state of New York -– the couple has struggled to remain together. Edwin struggles with failing health and increasingly depends on Tim as his primary caretaker....
"Every day, we live with the very real possibility that, despite following every law and every policy of the United States, Tim will be forced to leave the country, and I will be left without my caretaker and the love of my life," Blesch said in a statement. "Today's news gives us great relief, and great hope that we may soon be able to put that worry behind us. For the first time, we can begin to plan the rest of our lives together without fear that we will be torn apart."
U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services Asks Field Offices To Put Bi-National Immigration Cases On Hold [Metro Weekly]
Immigration Equality Hails Government Decision Allowing Lesbian And Gay Couples To File Green Card Applications [Immigration Equality]