After the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law against same-sex marriage last week in a 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor, an American man in Florida and his Bulgarian husband became the first same-sex married couple to be approved for a permanent resident visa. The couple, who live in Florida, had applied for their green card in February and received news of the issuance of the green card on Friday, June 28. This couple is just one of an estimated 25,000 binational same sex couples in the United States who were restricted from visa categories by the Defense of Marriage Act.

The New York Times is calling this an immigration milestone and proof that the Obama administration is acting quickly to change the visa policies to accommodate with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that the United States Supreme Court held as unconstitutional last week. DOMA had defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages as the grounds for any visa. DOMA had also banned the option for gay binational couples to sponsor a spouse on a visa.

The United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) will begin to announce new procedures this week for same-sex binational couples seeking green cards. For the last two years, the USCIS has kept a list of same-sex couples whose green card petitions were denied, anticipating that the Supreme Court will eventually invalidate DOMA. The denials will now be reversed without couples having to present new applications, granted no other issues have arisen, and will move through the system with the same ease as traditional spouses. The DOMA Project works to stop deportations and separation of gay couples caused by the DOMA. The organization has filed about 100 green-card petitions for same-sex couples since 2010.

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Posted By: Christina Toroyan, 1L summer intern