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District Court Judge Stays Removal of Five Bi-National Couples Pending Constitutional Challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act

Published: Jul 31, 2012 9:00 am By: Matthew L. Kolken

Chief U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has done what the Obama administration to date has been unwilling to do: issue a stay of removal of the immigrant spouses of five separate United States citizens in same-sex marriages.  Judge Amon was nominated to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. 

The following background information about the five couples named in the suit was taken directly from the Immigration Equality website:

  • Edwin Blesch and his South African spouse, Tim Smulian. Edwin and Tim, who have been together for more than 13 years, were married in South Africa in August 2007.  While their marriage is honored by Edwin’s home state of New York, their green card petition was denied on March 14, 2012. They reside in Orient, New York.
  • Frances Herbert and her spouse, Takako Ueda, who is originally from Japan.  Frances and Takako, who have known each other for 22 years, were married in April 2011. Their petition for a green card was denied on December 1, 2011.  They reside in Dummerston, Vermont.
  • Heather Morgan and her spouse, Maria del Mar Verdugo, a native of Spain.  Heather and Mar have known each other for 14 years.  They were married, in New York, in August 2011 and have a pending green card petition, which is expected to be denied. They reside in New York City.
  • Santiago Ortiz and his spouse, Pablo Garcia, a native of Venezuela. Santiago, a Puerto Rican American, met Pablo in 1991 and registered as domestic partners in 1993. In May 2011, they were married in Connecticut. The couple have filed a green card petition, which is expected to be denied.  They reside in Elmhurst, New York
  • Kelli Ryan and her spouse, Lucy Truman, a native of the United Kingdom.  Kelli and Lucy have been a couple for more than 11 years and entered into a civil union in July 2006.  They were married in March 2010 in Connecticut. Their petition for a green card was denied on March 27, 2012. They reside in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

The lawsuit filed on April 2, 2012, argues that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law by President Clinton is violative of the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that "[s]olely because of DOMA and its unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples, these Plaintiffs are being denied the immigration rights afforded to other similarly situated binational couples." The unfortunate fact remains that the Obama administration continues to enforce DOMA in the immigration context denying immigrant petitions filed by United States citizens on behalf of their same-sex spouses.  

President Obama's recent announcement that he has "evolved" on the issue of marriage equality is little more than political pandering in an election year. Obama’s official position on gay marriage is that he will permit each individual State to decide the issue. If a State elects to abridge the constitutional rights of gay couples by enacting legislation that prohibits same sex marriage, President Obama doesn’t intend to take any affirmative action to counter their decision. Would the President’s position be any different if a State enacted laws prohibiting interracial marriage?

The analogy is not so misplaced, as same sex couples find themselves facing the same legal obstacles that were once applied in this country to interracial couples through the enactment of miscegenation laws that criminalized interracial marriage.

Point being, President Obama’s position of inaction is little more than acquiescence, and willful acceptance of legalized discrimination. It is both shameful and cowardly, is simply not good enough, and certainly is not “evolved” enough.

Here is the reality about this President. He is more concerned about losing the battleground States of Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia this November than taking bold affirmative steps to protect the millions of Americans in this country that continue to be denied true marriage equality.

Nowhere is this more evident than in his enforcement of the United States immigration law.

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