same sex marriage qualifies for a green card

What was the decision?

In April of 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in what would become one of the most famous court cases in American history.  In Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health et al., the court dealt with same sex marriage.  Gay marriage is has been in the news for the past few years. This conservative court stated the Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

How would it change immigration law?

This decision solidifies that a US citizen can apply for his or her foreign national spouse regardless of their sex.  In other words a man can marry and apply for a man as can a woman marry and apply for a woman.  This has been allows ever since the Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by President Clinton in 1996) was overturned by this same court in June of 2013.  Since July 1, 2013, President Obama directed federal immigration department allowed same sex spouses to qualify for family based green cards.  But it wasn’t clear if this approach would survive his presidency.

The process for applying for this green card is the same as for any other spouse based petition.  The United States became the 20th nation to legalize same sex marriage.  This means that same sex couples from these countries can now immigrate to the United States and have their marriage be recognized. Among these other 19 nations are Brazil, South Africa, and a large portion of Europe.  All of these countries provide a decent amount of the United States immigration population, how this law will affect immigration to the US is unknown at this time.

What’s next for the same sex debates?

The fight will now move to the states, which have to license same-sex marriages.  Texas has already said that county clerks can object to issuing the licenses as an infringement of their religious liberty.  What is more interesting, however, isn’t whether a county official can object.  In my opinion he or she can’t.  The official must issue the license or resign from his or her position, assuming the applicants meet the legal requirements.

In a discussion I recently had with a pastor he argued that the interesting arguments will come from religious institutions.  What happens when a Church who is a non-profit and gets federal funds refuses to perform a ceremony as counter to its religious liberty?  Will the institution have to choose between losing funding (and destroying the institution) or violate a fundamental tenet of its religion (and to some destroy the institution)?  I am curious to see how these cases will progress.

One thing is clear.  Our society is changing.  Fast.

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