Washington Markup

Following Historic Supreme Court Decision Striking Down DOMA, Administration Acts

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:32pm

Following Wednesday's historic decision by the Supreme Court striking down the heart of the discriminatory, so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," President Obama said:

…I've directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

It was great to see this commitment from President Obama, and it quickly became very clear that no time will be wasted in ensuring that married same-sex couples from across the country receive the federal respect and recognition for their marriages that they have been far too long denied.

On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that, for the first time in our nation's history, same-sex spouses of federal employees are now eligible for the federal employee health insurance program and other key programs. President Obama took note of the occasion, saying:

This is a critical first step toward implementing this week's landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that all married couples --gay and straight -- should be treated equally under federal law. Thousands of gays and lesbians serve our country every day in the federal government. They, and their spouses and children, deserve the same respect and protection as every other family.

Also on Friday, according to Julia Preston of The New York Times, an American man in Florida (Julian Marsh) and his husband (Traian Popov), who is from Bulgaria, became the first binational same-sex married couple to be approved for a permanent resident visa (i.e. a green card). Marsh said, "It was just kind of a shock, like winning the lottery. The amazing overwhelming fact is that the government said yes, and my husband and I can live in the country we chose and we love and want to stay in."

On Wednesday, minutes after the decision was announced, another binational same-sex married couple, Sean and Steven Brooks, was spared the threat of separation due to deportation. Steven, who first came to the U.S. in the 1990s when his family moved from Colombia, was facing a deportation hearing on Wednesday morning, a hearing that was immediately halted as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling.

As each day passes and more married same-sex couples begin to benefit directly from last week's historic decision, our nation will take another important step forward in extending the promise of fairness and equality under the law. This day has been a very long time in coming. President Obama and his administration deserve a great deal of credit for keeping their commitment to act swiftly. I'm looking forward to seeing what the coming days, weeks, and months will bring.

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