Queer Corner: As If Marriage Weren’t Hard Enough



Though our country’s stringent immigration policies make it difficult for just about anyone to stay in the U.S., there is zero legal protection for gay and lesbian binational couples. While straight individuals have the option to sponsor their spouse to stay in the U.S. with them, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has prevented legally married same-sex couples from claiming spousal rights and benefits from the federal government for years.

Countless couples have been kept apart, either temporarily or permanently, by this policy. But recently, things have been looking up. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced a policy that allows immigration authorities to exercise prosecutorial discretion to prioritize immigration cases. Several couples have seen the benefits of this already. In one case reported by the Huffington Post in January 2012, a 65-year-old South African man’s immigration case was deferred for one year, allowing him to take care of his American husband, whose HIV-positive status has resulted in severe health complications.

While this loophole in immigration policy has obvious benefits, same-sex marriages remain unrecognized by the federal government. While President Obama’s immigration priorities mean that some binational gay couples may be granted a temporary reprieve from government interven­tion in their personal lives, it does not grant the same legal rights and protections guaranteed to straight couples. With national immigration reform organization Immigration Equality estimating that there are 36,000 binational gay and lesbian couples living in the U.S., nearly half of whom are raising children, can we be satisfied with the declaration that same-sex couples are not high enough on the immigration authorities’ list of priorities to be dealt with – for now?

While DOMA remains in effect, gay and lesbian couples will continue to face government-sanctioned discrimination. Binational same-sex couples will continue to live in fear of being separated until the U.S. government finally acknowledges that all loving, committed couples are deserving of the rights and privileges of marriage.

Contact Kerry McGrath at [email protected].