What is the Immigration Equality lawsuit about?
Immigration Equality has filed a lawsuit on behalf of five binational couples – lesbian and gay Americans who cannot sponsor their spouses for green cards because of DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. This lawsuit challenges Section 3 of the law, which excludes legally married same-sex couples from any federal law or program in which marriage is a factor. The General Accounting Office reports that 1,138 federal rights are conferred based on marital status – but only one, the denial of immigration benefits, can force a couple apart forever.
Who are the plaintiffs?
The plaintiffs are five married couples who are running out of options to stay together in the United States. They are legally married couples some of whom have been together for decades, but the American in each couple cannot sponsor their spouse for legal residence in the U.S. – a green card. They are lesbians and gay men, they are professional and working class, they are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, they are white, Latino, Jewish and Asian. They live in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont – all states that provide equal marriage rights – yet the states’ own rules are ignored by the federal government because of DOMA. They have each filed a green card petition all which have been or will be denied solely because they are gay and lesbian families. You can learn more about the plaintiff couples on our lawsuit webpage.
Why are you filing now?
One year ago the Justice Department announced they would no longer defend DOMA, recognizing that it cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. Since then, court after court has ruled the law unconstitutional, but the government still refuses to approve – or even hold – green card applications filed by LGBT families. As a result, American families are facing separation and exile. Immigration Equality has repeatedly asked the government to stop denying green card applications to the spouses of lesbian and gay Americans, and they have refused. We have no choice but to sue.
What will this accomplish?
This lawsuit will help defeat DOMA. We have everything we need to win. Our legal staff advises more LGBT immigrant families than any other organization in the country. We are the experts the experts turn to on matters impacting those families. There is no one, better prepared to win this fight in the courts. We are collaborating with our pro bono partners at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, one of the nation’s most prestigious law firms. We put this lawsuit together in close consultation with our peers in the LGBT legal community.
Can I join the lawsuit?
The five plaintiff couples are bravely going forward on behalf of all binational couples everywhere. The lawsuit is not a class action, and new plaintiffs will not be added. If we win on behalf of these couples, all couples will be helped.
Should I file my own lawsuit?
No, as we have cautioned previously, the DOMA challenges which are going forward, including ours, have been the result of careful collaboration and strategy. Bringing a federal constitutional challenge takes enormous resources – Paul Clement who is defending DOMA on behalf of House Republicans has already contracted with the House for $1.5 million to defend DOMA in court. Bad cases make bad law and the last thing that LGBT families need is bad law in this area.
Can I file for a green card or fiancé/e visa for my partner or spouse now?
Unfortunately, the Administration is still enforcing DOMA and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is still denying green cards for married lesbian and gay couples. If you file an application it will almost certainly be denied and the foreign spouse may be placed in removal proceedings or denied future visas to the U.S. based on the application. Please do not file anything with Immigration without consulting with a qualified attorney.
When will you have a decision?
It is difficult to answer this question. Every case is different and some move relatively quickly and others move more slowly. For example the Gill case in Massachusetts is being argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeals on April 4, 2012 almost two years after a Massachusetts District Court judge ruled that DOMA violated the Constitution. Other cases move more quickly. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will probably decide the issue.
How can I help?
You can help by learning more, telling your friends, and donating money to help us educate more people around the country about why we need to win. You can also support the Uniting American Families Act, our family fairness legislation that is currently pending in Congress. This lawsuit does not change our commitment to, or the importance of, the Uniting American Families Act. Courts can take years to decide on constitutional questions, and DOMA will be no different. As the litigation moves forward, we will continue to build support for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.