Five Americans and their same-sex spouses from other countries filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging that the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates their constitutional right to equal protection when it comes to immigration, the Associated Press reported.
Under DOMA, federal authorities do not recognize same-sex marriages, even if they occurred in states where gay marriage is legal, the New York Times reported. (Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia.) Gay couples do not qualify for federal benefits, including the right to sponsor their spouses for legal permanent residency via green cards, MSNBC reported.
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According to the New York Times:
Since unlike many other visas, there are no limits on the number of green cards available to spouses of citizens, those applications are among the fastest and most straightforward procedures in the immigration system.
"The families in today's lawsuit meet every qualification for immigration benefits, with the sole exception that they happen to be lesbian or gay," Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, the organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the couples, said, the AP reported.
There are an estimated 36,000 binational gay couples in the US, MSNBC reported. In the last year, two other cases – one in Los Angeles and the other in Chicago – were filed on the same immigration benefits issue.
Without green cards, some of the plaintiffs may have to leave the US, the AP reported. “I’m a citizen of this country just like anybody else,” Heather Morgan, 36, a plaintiff in the lawsuit with her Spanish spouse, María del Mar Verdugo Yañez, 42, told the New York Times. “I don’t want to feel like I have to leave here in order to be with the person I love. I shouldn’t have to choose.”
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