In a major breakthrough for gay and lesbian couples, President Obama has directed officials charged with overseeing US immigration to officially recognize same-sex partners when carrying out administration for deportation cases. This means both American citizens and immigrants who are part of a long-term gay or lesbian couple will be considered to be in a family relationship.
Janet Napolitano is Homeland Security Secretary and the new directive she issued on behalf of the Obama administration aims to “provide a measure of clarity and confidence to families dealing with separation in immigration cases” according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who added “Our nation is served when loving families are kept together.”
Same-sex couples do not yet have the same status as heterosexual ones, largely due to the existence of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from allowing benefits, such as Social Security, to be extended to married lesbian and gay couples. However next month the US Supreme Court is to consider, and perhaps question, the constitutionality of DOMA by reviewing a number of relevant cases.
A spokesperson for the national gay rights group, Immigration Equality, has declared the change in approach to be “a huge step forward.” Executive director Rachel B. Tiven said, “Until now, LGBT families and their lawyers had nothing to rely on but an oral promise. The administration’s written guidance will help families facing separation and the field officers who are reviewing their cases.” It is believed the new directive will benefit thousands of same-sex couples that are currently in exile.