A lawsuit has been filed seeking to end the deportation of lesbians and gays by the federal government, and it is seeking class action status. It is unclear how many binational lesbian and gay married couples are out there, but there are likely enough to get a class action lawsuit started.
Unlike heterosexual couples, binational lesbian and gay married couples have a huge hurdle when it comes to naturalizing the non-American spouse due to the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA unconstitutionally violates not only the states’ traditional right to define what marriage is, but discriminates against LGBT Americans due to its specific targeting of a minority group.
Jane DeLeon, an immigrant from the Philippines, her American spouse Irma Rodriguez, and DeLeon’s son Martin Aranas have all filed suit challenging DOMA. The suit also challenges the Obama Administration for not putting a blanket hold on deportations of the immigrant spouses of lesbians and gays. The Obama Administration has decided to conduct reviews of such marriages and the deportations that could hurt them on a case by case basis.
Peter Schey, the executive director for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, is the lead attorney for the case, and noted that what DeLeon wants from the government regarding her ability to stay in the United States is granted to heterosexual couples as routine. He stated that “Our immediate concern is with the failure of the administration to implement a policy to provide protection from deportation for immigrants in same-sex marriages, as they’ve done recently for undocumented youth.”
The Department of Justice has asked the US Supreme Court to review DOMA, but so far, several courts, both liberal and conservative, have ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional.
DeLeon and Rodriguez were married in 2008. The two have been together since 1992.
Martin Aranas stated that “I have been living in this country since I was nine years old. I have attended school here and continue to attend school while working part-time. My legalization depends on my mother’s case. After many years of having temporary legal status, I now face being in ‘illegal’ status only because my mother is in a same sex marriage. I hope and pray that President Obama will allow me and the hundreds or thousands of children of gay married couples to continue living here with some legal protection until the courts decide whether denying our parents immigration benefits is constitutional.”
Irma Rodriguez said “I am a citizen of the United States and a hardworking, law-abiding, and dedicated member of my community. For over twenty years I have loved and been in a committed relationship with Jane DeLeon, and in 2008 we were lawfully married. We have accepted all of the obligations and responsibilities that come with the blessing of marriage. It deeply saddens me that despite President Obama’s support of the rights of gay married couples, after living here for twenty years, my spouse has been told by immigration authorities that her presence here is unlawful and she must leave the country. If President Obama believes that discrimination against gay married couples is wrong, he should suspend the removal of all immigrants in same sex marriages who are eligible to legalize their status until the courts decide whether this form of discrimination is constitutional.”
Jane DeLeon said in a statement “Throughout the twenty years I have lived here, I have worked hard, paid taxes, and supported my community as much as I could. I helped to raise my son Martin here. Irma and I have committed to each other for the rest of our lives. We now face being forced to move to the Philippines or breaking up our family only because we are legally married women. We would face persecution in the Philippines because we are a same sex couple, not to mention dire poverty, separation from our extended families who live here, and lack of access to medical treatment Irma needs. We pray that the administration will change its mind and grant me and those similarly situated around the country the right to remain here temporarily until the courts decide whether our constitutional lawsuit has merit.”
And finally, Peter Schey said “We hope that this lawsuit causes the Administration to reconsider its policy and grant an across-the-board stay of deportation and work permits to immigrants who qualify for visas but for the fact they are in a same sex marriage. All such cases should be automatically put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of DOMA. To discriminate against this population by requiring that they live underground, work illegally, or worse be deported, while the courts address the constitutionality of DOMA is unconscionable. If President Obama understood that undocumented youth are entitled to temporary protection from deportation while Congress grabbles with their status, he should understand that same sex married couples are entitled to temporary protection from deportation while the courts decide if they agree with his Administration that DOMA is unconstitutional”
Contact: Peter Schey