Bi-national same-sex couples file suit challenging Defense of Marriage Act

[JURIST] A group of same-sex couples filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Monday challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] on the grounds that the law discriminates against same-sex couples in which one of the partners is a foreign national. In the lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website], the plaintiffs argue that if the foreign-born partner were of the opposite sex of the American partner, the federal government would afford the foreign partner a path to US citizenship. However, because the partners in this case are of the same sex, the lawsuit alleges that under DOMA, the federal government will not grant the foreign-born partner the same path to citizenship as a heterosexual foreign national:

In each couple [in the lawsuit], one spouse is an American citizen and the other spouse a foreign national. If they were different-sex couples, the federal government would recognize the American spouse to petition for an immigrant visa for the foreign spouse and place the foreign spouse on the path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship. Solely because of DOMA and its unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples, however, these Plaintiffs are being denied the immigration rights afforded to other similarly situated bi-national couples.
It is unclear when this case, Blesch v. Holder, will be heard.

DOMA, which excludes same-sex marriage from recognition under federal law, has been a subject of great controversy recently. Last week, the Obama administration sought expedited review [JURIST report] from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] for two test cases challenging DOMA's constitutionality. In February, a group of US lawmakers planned to appeal [JURIST report] the trial court ruling that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminated against same-sex couples. In November, the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] voted to repeal DOMA [JURIST report] marking the first time a Congressional group has voted to repeal the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage. In October, a disabled Navy veteran filed a notice of appeal [JURIST report] with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims [official website] for denying her partner a share of her disability benefits under DOMA. The Department of Veterans Affairs [official website] allegedly told the veteran she could not receive benefits because her spouse was a woman.

 

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