The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (June 26, 2013), struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between a man and a woman for federal government purposes. As a result, legally married same-sex couples will be entitled to the same federal immigration benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for permanent residency and obtain dependent nonimmigrant visa status.
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued the following statement, “I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits. I am pleased the Court agreed with the Administration’s position that DOMA’s restrictions violate the Constitution. Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws." Secretary of the Department of State John Kerry made a similar statement regarding the Department of State that oversees visa processing at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide.
With the recognition of the legality of same-sex marriage for immigration purposes, thousands of couples and families will now be able to avoid painful periods of separation. Jackson Lewis is already seeing requests to file for immigration benefits for same-sex couples. We will continue to monitor the effects of Windsor on employers and individuals nationwide. For other implications of Windsor, please see the following article: U.S. Supreme Court Rules Legally-Married Same-Sex Spouses Entitled to Federal Recognition and Lifts California Ban on Same-Sex Marriages