Same-Sex Marriage Becoming Mainstream? What Does it Mean for Immigrants?
By: Helena Coric*
The 2012 Presidential election produced great advances in the fight for marriage equality as legislation passed in the states of Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Washington. The significance of these results is that for the first time voters supported the measure at the polls, instead of it simply being limited to the authority of state legislatures. The times of this issue being perceived as solely an intellectual debate are gone as it becomes a question of policy on all levels.
These new developments also present the question as to the impact such decisions may have on future legislation nationwide. The results in these four states have a critical impact as the issue has become a political reality and acceptable in the eyes of many voters. This places pressure on the state legislatures around the country to tackle marriage equality more directly. In addition, it will also push for resolutions on ending legal barriers to gay marriage at the federal level.
Yet, the majority of these legislative initiatives at state and federal levels cannot be addressed immediately. It will take time, but the November outcome gives marriage equality a push that previously had not existed. The critical and immediate significance of these new states’ approval is the impact on previously disillusioned gay and lesbian voters. With recent failures in the movement, such as Proposition 8 in California during 2008 or a setback in Maine during 2011, the marriage equality movement needed these successes.
An important connection must be made to make clear that the marriage equality debate is multifaceted. The real question – now that more and more states are adopting same-sex marriage as a legal reality – is what will the federal government do? The complexities arise when one considers that immigration is a federal issue, while the debate of marriage equality is being left up to states. Immigration legislation allows for a foreign spouse to receive legal permanent residency through a green card through one’s foreign spouse. The green card, in many ways, is the most straightforward path towards citizenship, due to the unlimited amount of green cards available to spouses of citizens. A problem presents itself in that federal authorities and legislation are not going to recognize same-sex marriages even if an individual state may allow it. Thereby, many of these same-sex couples may face deportation for the immigrant or leaving the country in the case of the American spouse.
*Helena Coric is an Intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.