Five Couples Ask Court to Recognize Families for U.S. Immigration Purpose

The Obama administration said it officially will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. However that’s not stopping the legal challenges to bring it to a legal head. (The Advocate):

Five couples — one of whom first met more than 30 years ago, another who had shuffled between the United States and South Africa for over a decade to avoid breaking immigration law — filed suit earlier today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. They allege that the 1996 law, deemed unconstitutional and unworthy of further court defense in 2011 by the Obama administration, violates their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Multiple challenges to DOMA are already well under way in the courts: An appeals court panel in Boston is set to hear arguments Wednesday in one such case, where a judge ruled nearly two years ago that a section of the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

But the new case is among the first to challenge the antigay law as it applies to immigration rights and is the first to be filed by an LGBT rights organization on behalf of gay immigrant families.

More information from Immigration Equality, which filed this along with the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP:

“Solely because of DOMA and its unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples,” the lawsuit states, “these Plaintiffs are being denied the immigration rights afforded to other similarly situated binational couples.” Were the Plaintiffs opposite-sex couples, the suit says, “the federal government would recognize the foreign spouse as an ‘immediate relative’ of a United States citizen, thereby allowing the American spouse to petition for an immigrant visa for the foreign spouse, and place [them] on the path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship.”

The five couples named in the lawsuit:

  • Edwin Blesch and his South African spouse, Tim Smulian. Edwin and Tim, who have been together for more than 13 years, were married in South Africa in August 2007.  While their marriage is honored by Edwin’s home state of New York, their green card petition was denied on March 14, 2012. They reside in Orient, New York.
  • Frances Herbert and her spouse, Takako Ueda, who is originally from Japan.  Frances and Takako, who have known each other for 22 years, were married in April 2011. Their petition for a green card was denied on December 1, 2011.  They reside in Dummerston, Vermont.
  • Heather Morgan and her spouse, Maria del Mar Verdugo, a native of Spain.  Heather and Mar have known each other for 14 years.  They were married, in New York, in August 2011 and have a pending green card petition. They reside in New York City.
  • Santiago Ortiz and his spouse, Pablo Garcia, a native of Venezuela. Santiago, a Puerto Rican American, met Pablo in 1991 and registered as domestic partners in 1993. In May 2011, they were married in Connecticut. The couple have filed a green card petition.  They reside in Elmhurst, New York
  • Kelli Ryan and her spouse, Lucy Truman, a native of the United Kingdom.  Kelli and Lucy have been a couple for more than 11 years and entered into a civil union in July 2006.  They were married in March 2010 in Connecticut. Their petition for a green card was denied on March 27, 2012. They reside in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

The plaintiffs in the suit include a retired professor of English at a New York college (Blesch); a home elder-care provider (Herbert); a marketing director for a global non-profit organization (Morgan); a retired school psychologist (Ortiz); and two doctors of immunology (Ryan and Truman).

“The families in today’s lawsuit meet every qualification for immigration benefits, with the sole exception that they happen to be lesbian or gay,” said Rachel B. Tiven, Esq., executive director of Immigration Equality.  “Solely because of their sexual orientation, they have been singled out, under federal law, for discrimination and separation. That’s not only unconscionable; it is unconstitutional. We know DOMA cannot withstand careful review, and we know we will prevail on their behalf.”

David Dayen has more at FDL News.