Now that DOMA has been declared unconstitutional by the president and Department of Justice, and Congress has introduced legislation to repeal it altogether, one could argue that the law should no longer be used to deport gays and lesbians from other countries who have legally married American citizens of the same gender.
And since one could argue it, someone has. Monica Alcota’s immigration lawyers successfully halted her deportation to Argentina after arguing that Alcota’s marriage to Cristina Ojeda in Connecticut invokes the same access to citizenship that straight couples are granted. For the very first time in American legal history, a judge agreed.
It’s the plot of more films and sitcoms than we can even remember. Boy meets girl. The two begin dating. But wait! Boy’s visa expires next month and he’ll be forced to return to Holland Paraguay Narnia Australia. If only there were a way to stay together and see if these sparks were real! Ah…but there is. The two marry in a quickie ceremony and then cleverly pull the veil over immigration officers that they’ve been together for years and their love is 4-eels & 4-eva. By the time U.S. Immigration is onto them, they’ve fallen in love for real and started a life together. Everyone lives happily ever after.
Quick tangent, I just realized that this is almost the exact plot from Sandra Bullock’s film, The Proposal, which just goes to show you how contrived the entire thing is. What the movies never show you is how stunningly illegal sham weddings like this are. People (allegedly) go to jail for fraud like this. Although, to be honest, we’ve known more than one couple who wed under these circumstances. They don’t always work out so happily, even when you get away with it.
Faking an international affair in order to take advantage of imperfect immigration policy makes light of the fact that gay and lesbian couples have until now been unable to receive these same legal protections, even when their love and marriage is the real deal. It’s that whole sanctity of marriage nonsense again. Straight couples can fake a marriage to get a visa quite easily, but gay couples and families are broken apart and deported in American every single week.
Until now, it seems. On Top Mag reports:
In an interview with the gay marriage group Stop 8, Alcota’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway, said the judge’s decision to consider the women’s marriage rested on the shifting status of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Clinton-era law that bans federal recognition of the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
“We argued this week in court that the judge and the attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security should take note of the changing landscape of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Soloway said. “The should take note of the fact first that the president and the [U.S.] attorney general announced that they would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act on February 23, and that they found the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. But also that Congress, both the House and the Senate, were moving now to repeal it. And that legislation had been introduced.”
“And then, of course, that previously this summer a federal district court judge had ruled the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.”
“And that taken together, all three branches were essentially working on the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, that it would be premature to deport the spouse of a lesbian American citizen, while that was happening, when the Defense of Marriage Act was the only obstacle standing between them and a green card.”
Sounds about right to us. With DOMA on the way out, same-sex international couples can breathe a sigh of relief. No longer will our families be forced to undergo discriminatory and defamatory treatment in the eyes of the law. Alcota’s status was discovered after a boarder patrol agent in Rochester, NY randomly searched a bus the couple was riding on. Alcota was arrested on the spot and taken into custody for three months. Had her partner, Ojeda been a man, there would have been nothing illegal about their union.
When you look at it like that, it is clear that the U.S. Immigration policy is in need of serious reform. We’re thrilled that the state of New York has chosen not to deport Monica Alcota, and we look forward to other gay and lesbian couples receiving the same protections.