By Julie Oliver-Zhang, Esq. & Amanda Utterback, J.D.
On Tuesday, October 6th, 2014, a historical moment for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals came to pass in America. The United States Supreme Court voted to not review the seven petitions requesting the consideration of a national constitutional right to same-sex marriage. This refusal by the Court to second-guess the state courts’ rulings striking down bans on gay marriage as violations of equal rights now permits gay and lesbian couples to marry legally in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Significantly, the new law in these states also expands the immigration options for the global LGBT community. After yesterday’s decision by the Court, same-sex spouses and fiancé or fiancées from other countries can now apply for an American green card or non-immigrant visa after getting married in 24 states and the District of Columbia with legalized gay marriage.
Specifically, thirteen states have now legalized same-sex marriage through court decisions (California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin); eight through legislation (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia); and three have legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote (Maine, Maryland, and Washington).
Currently, gay marriage equality is still in limbo in seven states, pending state court appeals (Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, and Texas). We hope to soon add these states to the list of jurisdictions that will welcome foreign immigrant same-sex spouses.
Because the status of gay marriage is still uncertain in these seven limbo states, our recommendation is that gay couples should get married in one of the above 24 states in order to ensure access to the new, available federal immigration benefits. The new laws can help even those undocumented or illegal gay, lesbian, and transgender immigrants who have been deprived of legal status for years. Those who have entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas can legalize their status through a good-faith marriage to a U.S. citizen, if they receive appropriate I-601 waivers that forgive various types inadmissibility.
As new laws and legal issues regarding gay immigration rights continue to evolve, the LGBT attorneys at Oliver-Zhang Law are able to assist in legalizing same-sex immigration status. Please contact us today for a free consultation.