Gillibrand leads renewed call to help bi-national couples

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
File photo by Michael Key, Washington Blade CHRIS JOHNSON [e]Washington Blade[m]

The junior senator from New York is taking up the lead on a renewed call for administrative action to help bi-national same-sex couples in anticipation of a ruling from the Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act.

In a letter sent out Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and other U.S. senators call on the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to take action to ensure that married bi-national same-sex couples won’t face separation before justices make a final determination in case of Windsor v. United States before the end of June.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
File photo by Michael Key, Washington Blade

Senators ask Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to hold the marriage-based green card petitions for bi-national same-sex couples in abeyance until the court makes its ruling on DOMA. Additionally, they ask Attorney General Eric Holder to institute a moratorium on orders of removal issued by immigration courts to married foreign nationals who would otherwise be able to adjust their status if not for DOMA.

“By taking these interim steps, vulnerable families affected by DOMA can remain together until the Supreme Court issues its decision,” the senators wrote. “Preserving family unity is a fundamental American value and is the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration law.”

Unlike straight Americans, gay Americans are unable to sponsor a foreign same-sex spouse for residency in the United States because DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. As a result, these couples could be faced with separation — or even deportation if the foreign nationals in these relationships lose their immigration status. Stand alone legislation that would address this issue is known as the Uniting American Families Act.

Besides Gillibrand, other signers of the letter are Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). A total of 13 names are on the request.

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