Gay couples file suit against DOMA in New York

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Five married couples, wherein one partner had a non-US nationality, have filed suit in New York today against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), arguing that it denies gay men and lesbians the right for permanent residence, as it is available to heterosexual couples, thereby violating equal protection under the constitution.

The case, lodged by Immigration Equality, is part of a host of anti-DOMA suits that have been filed across courts throughout the United States, ultimately expected to land in the Supreme Court over the course of next few years.

Recently, the case of a couple in San Fransisco involving an Australian citizen received widespread coverage in US media, and he was saved from deportation due to intervention by Nancy Pelosi (Democrat), the minority leader of the House of Representatives. That said, many argue that, for all the talk by the Obama administration about ‘prosecutorial discretion’ concerning gay and lesbian couples, it continues to enforce DOMA rather aggressively.

Last year, however, the Obama administration refused to defend DOMA in the courts, taking which as a spur, the Republican-led House has now taken the cause. The San Fransisco Chronicle reports that the former Solicitor General Paul Clement is now set to argue 12 DOMA cases on behalf of the House in a contract that is worth $1.5 million — something that worries senior Democrats like Ms Pelosi.

Immigration Equality has submitted that it is only on account of DOMA and “its unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples” that the plaintiffs are denied immigration rights that are afforded to similar binational couples. Were the couples in question heterosexual, the suit adds, “the federal government would recognize the foreign spouse as an ‘immediate relative’ of a United States citizen, thereby allowing the American spouse to petition for an immigrant visa for the foreign spouse, and place [them] on the path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship.”