Immigration Equality, the national experts on immigration rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, hailed an announcement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the agency will allow Americans with spouses from abroad to apply for green cards while courts weigh constitutional challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“USCIS has issued guidance to the field,” USCIS Spokesman Christopher Bentley announced, “asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues.”
“[Yesterday’s] statement is the first domino to fall for LGBT Americans with foreign national spouses,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “As Immigration Equality noted in our letters to both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, we believe that no spousal application should be denied until DOMA’s constitutionality is settled. Immigration Equality has been fighting for LGBT immigrant families since 1994. In that time we have counseled more than 10,000 families — and for them, [this] news is a sign that relief is finally on the way.”
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. The couple joined Immigration Equality in hailing the announcement.
“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. “[This] 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.”
Couples who believe they may be impacted by this decision are encouraged to contact Immigration Equality’s legal team for free, confidential advice at www.immigrationequality.org/contactus.php.
Immigration Equality is a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law, to reduce the negative impact of that law on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people, and to help obtain asylum for those persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV-status. Through education, outreach, advocacy, and the maintenance of a nationwide network of resources, we provide information and support to advocates, attorneys, politicians and those who are threatened by persecution or the discriminatory impact of the law.