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Immigration and Same-Sex Marriage

September 30, 2015 | Posted In Immigration - Immigration

The U.S. Supreme Court made history this summer when it overturned the existing laws regarding marriage and opened the door to legalize same-sex marriages nationwide. The impact of this decision has been far-reaching for many people, allowing couples to marry in all 50 states -- even in places where only civil unions had previously been recognized or no unions had been recognized at all.

Same-sex couples who choose to get married will now enjoy all the benefits afforded to heterosexual married spouses — insurance, next-of-kin rights, inheritance and more, as well as the civil support of the country in recognizing their commitment.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court extended the 2013 ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and made it unconstitutional for the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. The Obergefell decision extends to the states as well, meaning that New Jersey, for example, is now required to recognize any same-sex marriage in the state as valid and eligible for all the same rights as a heterosexual marriage.

Benefits for Immigrants Facing Deportation

Among the many who stand to benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision are the immigrants whose status sometime depends strictly on their family and marital statuses. People who do not have proof of a legal marriage to their partners may find themselves deported and their families divided across countries if officials discover that they are living in the country illegally.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, people who were in committed, long-term relationships or unions with a same-sex partner could be deported because their unions were not considered legal in the eyes of the state.

But now, immigrants involved in same-sex marriages can cite that marriage as a reason to keep them in the country. Following the court’s ruling, the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) stated that the agency will be reopening deportation cases as a result of the new legal status for same-sex marriages and will investigate any instances where an immigrant who is set to be deported has entered into a legally-recognized same-sex marriage with a U.S. citizen.

What About Old Deportation Orders?

While the OPLA declaration affects all deportation orders issued after the Supreme Court ruling, immigrants who have outstanding orders of deportation should be able to apply for protection under the same ruling and stop their deportation.

Same-sex marriage could provide relief in the form of a green card application (if an immigrant is married to a U.S. citizen) or a cancellation of a deportation order (if an immigrant has been in the U.S. for 10 years and has a qualifying spouse).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling has opened up a lot of options for citizens and their spouses, even if those spouses are not citizens themselves. With the change in status for same-sex marriage comes the opportunity for gay and lesbian immigrants to remain in the country without fear that their relationships will cause them to be deported.

For more information regarding your situation and to discuss how the Supreme Court’s ruling may affect you, contact a New Jersey immigration lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA today.

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