Defense of Marriage Act deports same-sex immigrants in US

The United States 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) identifies marriage as only being between a man and a woman under federal law. This means that in the case of immigration law, which is a federal matter, same sex couples who are legally married in states where gay marriage is legal are still subject to the DOMA.

ABC News reported on one case in the United States this week where a man’s husband is at risk of being deported. Though legally married, because the couple is gay and not straight the man’s husband cannot apply for permanent residency status and later citizenship. Instead, he may be deported because the marriage is not recognized federally. If he is deported, he would not be allowed back into the United States – where his husband is a citizen – for 10 years.

According to 2008 census data, approximately 24,000 same-sex couples where one spouse is a citizen and the other is not exist in the United States. A quarter of those couples have children.

No state legalized same-sex marriage in 1996, when DOMA passed, and these types of immigration consequences weren’t on anyone’s radar but are now becoming increasingly apparent as more couples run into immigration troubles.

It is estimated that thousands of gay couples where one spouse is American and one is an immigrant leave the United States each year to move to countries where same sex marriage is accepted across the board – such as Canada.

Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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