As pissed-off and heartbroken as advocates for LGBT rights were over the failure to include same-sex binational couples in the Senate immigration bill last month, Wednesday’s defeat of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” at the Supreme Court was a clear and decisive victory for these committed, loving couples.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wasted no time in making clear that DHS will be working in the days and weeks ahead to ensure that the Supreme Court’s ruling is swiftly implemented. Napolitano said that “all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”
Of all the many ways in which DOMA harmed same-sex couples and their families, immigration was surely one of the cruelest. DOMA placed a dark cloud over same-sex binational couples, forcing them to live in fear of separation. US citizens, in order to stay together with a foreign same-sex spouse or partner, were often forced to choose between the person they love or the country they love – a choice no person should have to make.
The implications of Wednesday’s historic ruling were made immediately apparent to Sean and Steven Brooks, a same-sex binational couple from New York City. Despite being legally married in New York, Sean was unable to sponsor Steven, who first came to the U.S. in the 1990s when his family moved from Colombia, for citizenship due to the senseless discrimination of DOMA. It had actually gotten to the point that Sean and Steven were facing the unimaginable – separation and deportation back to Colombia for Steven. In addition to the remarkable Edie Windsor, Sean and Steven may be the first gay couple to directly benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision. It led an immigration judge to put a halt to Steven’s scheduled deportation hearing on Wednesday morning. Not only will the Supreme Court’s decision remove the threat of deportation from this couple, Sean will now have the ability to sponsor his spouse for citizenship just like all other married binational couples.
Today, thanks to the actions of the Supreme Court Wednesday, Sean and Steven and the estimated 28,500 same-sex binational couples across the country, rather than coping with another day of worry and uncertainty, are able to rest in the comfort in knowing that the love and commitment they have pledged to each other will not be threatened by a discriminatory law.