[JURIST] Secretary of State John Kerry announced [transcript] Friday that the US will begin processing same-sex visa applications the same way opposite-sex visa applications are processed. Speaking at the US embassy in London, Kerry stated, "As long as a marriage has been performed in the jurisdiction that recognizes it, then that marriage is valid under US immigration laws. Every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate." US immigration officials announced [text] a similar shift in official policy last month, which allows same-sex partners to receive the same review as opposite-sex couples when filing a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) [official website]. The new visa policy will allow same-sex couples to travel to the US for work or study once one spouse is issued a visa. Kerry also added that the measure will allow even same-sex couples applying from countries that do not legally recognize their marriage to receive equal treatment as opposite-sex couples when applying for visas in the US.
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] legislation has been passed in a number of states, eventually finding its way to the US Supreme Court [official website]. In June the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in two landmark same-sex marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], the court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional. Under DOMA, couples in same-sex marriages legally recognized by a state were denied federal benefits extended to married couples. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal the district court's order striking down Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], California's same-sex marriage ban. Despite recent events, some believe [JURIST op-ed] that same-sex couples have still not reached a guarantee of marriage equality.