The United States denied permanent residence for five foreigners married to gay Americans, among them one Spaniard and one Venezuelan, who in April brought a court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a law they consider discriminatory.
“Although it is a decision that in part you would expect, it does leave you disappointed and frustrated, but we have not lost hope,” Spanish citizen Maria del Mar Verdugo, who last year married U.S. citizen Heather Morgan, told Efe.
Morgan submitted the paperwork for the Spanish citizen in March, who is in the country legally thanks to a work permit, to obtain permanent residence for family reasons after getting married last year in New York, where they legalized marriage between same-sex couples a year ago.
However, immigration authorities rejected the petition because both are women citing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which since 1996 prevents the federal government from recognizing marriage between same-sex couples, according to a copy of the document provided to Efe.
Because of this federal law, which defines marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman, gays and lesbians in the U.S. cannot sponsor their partners for permanent residence after marrying in one of the eight U.S. states where gay marriage is permitted.
Along with four other couples in the same situation, Morgan and Verdugo filed a lawsuit challenging DOMA in New York asserting that it is “unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples” to deny “immigration rights enjoyed by other [heterosexual] couples.”
The U.S. government also denied a permanent residence to Venezuelan Pablo Garcia, married to his partner of more than 20 years, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent Santiago Ortiz, leaving [Garcia] to continue in an undocumented status in the U.S.
“Although we expected this, you always have hope,” Ortiz told Efe, and explained that the couple now is hopeful that one of the various cases that have challenged DOMA will arrive at the Supreme Court and that the Court will declare the law unconstitutional.
According to Immigration Equality, which brought the lawsuit filed by these five couples, the Supreme Court could rule on DOMA by June of next year.
Meanwhile, the organization called on U.S. President Barack Obama, to hold applications for permanent residence of couples in this situation until the Supreme Court rules on this issue.
Last May, the president announced that he supports same-sex marriage. While his words have no effect on existing legislation, the announcement encouraged these couples, who saw “great hope” in the statement, Heather Morgan told Efe.
“We know we are a family like any other and seeing that the President recognizes this motivates you,” said Morgan, who has not lose hope that DOMA will ultimately be declared unconstitutional and that they will be able to again request the papers so that her wife can become a permanent resident. EFE