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Blesch v. Holder, FAQs on ImEq’s DOMA Case

What is the Immigration Equality lawsuit about?

In April 2012, Immigration Equality filed a lawsuit on behalf of five binational couples – lesbian and gay Americans who could not sponsor their spouses for green cards because of DOMA. The plaintiffs are five legally married couples, some of whom have been together for decades, but the American in each couple could not 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 were ignored by the federal government because of DOMA. Each of these families had a spousal petition denied solely because they are gay and lesbian families. You can learn more about the plaintiff couples on our lawsuit webpage.

What is the status of the case?

The judge in Blesch v. Holder stayed our case until United States v. Windsor was decided by the United States Supreme Court. Now that Windsor has been decided favorably, we may no longer need the Blesch case to ensure that binational couples get green cards.

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.

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.

Are there other immigration cases challenging DOMA?

Yes, there have been several federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) challenges involving binational couples that Immigration Equality is not involved in. We believe that the case we brought, Blesch v. Holder, is the strongest DOMA case that could be brought in the immigration context.

What is the status of Aranas v. Napolitano? 

On April 19, 2013, California District Judge Consuelo Marshall issued a decision in a federal court challenge to DOMA on behalf of lesbian and gay binational couples. The House Republicans (BLAG, for the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group) had made a motion to dismiss the case arguing that DOMA is constitutional, and the judge denied that motion, meaning that the case can go forward. The lawyer also asked for a preliminary injunction to hold DOMA-affected cases in abeyance, but that request was denied.

On April 24, 2013, the judge stayed the Aranas case pending the Supreme Court decision in Windsor. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA the parties to the case and ultimately Judge Marshall will decide if the case will go forward.

Is Immigration Equality part of the Aranas case?

Immigration Equality did not bring the Aranas case; we brought the Blesch case on behalf of binational couples, which is pending in the Eastern District of New York. Immigration Equality did file a notice with the Aranas court asking to be kept informed of developments in that case since it affects binational couples.

If I’m in a binational couple, am I a member of the class in Aranas (since that’s a class action)?

It’s unclear at this point. The judge did issue a provisional class certification order, but provisional class certification generally means that the class is only certified for the purpose of issuing a preliminary injunction. In this case the judge denied the preliminary injunction, so, unless the case moves forward, it is not clear what meaning (if any) the class has.