Why Marriage Matters to Binational Couples

Approximately 35,820 of the 594,391 same-sex unmarried partner couples counted in Census 2000 are binational couples (couples in which the partners are citizens of different countries). Among binational couples, more than a third of same-sex male couples and 58% of female same-sex couples report having children under age 18 in the home. These children are less likely to be citizens than children raised by binational married couples.

For many years, married binational same-sex couples were unable to keep their families together in the United States because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of DOMA, extending many federal protections and responsibilities of marriage - including the ability to sponsor your spouse for a green card. 

The statement from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, issued on July 1, reads:

After last week's decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly. To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse. 

The government has also made clear that gay and lesbian Americans can sponsor green cards for their legal spouses even if they live in a state that does not respect marriages between same-sex couples. The department states:

In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.  

Freedom to Marry has continually spoken out against offensive anti-immigrant measures, such as Arizona’s SB1070 passed in May 2010. Such measures invite discrimination and abuse, and are part of an anti-immigrant hysteria that is inimical to America's interests and the Golden Rule.

Learn More About International Progress Toward the Freedom to Marry

Blog Posts Related to Binational Couples

Binational Miami couple Daniel and Yohandel receive green card

This week, Daniel Zavala finally was granted a green card, sponsored by his husband, Yohandel Ruiz. The men, who live in Miami, FL, married in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 2012, and in the past year and a half, they have worked hard to amplify the plight of married binational same-sex couples.

It’s official: Gay and lesbian Americans can sponsor their foreign spouses for immigration

This week, the DHS issued a statement that formalizes the new post-DOMA policy that gay and lesbian Americans can sponsor their married foreign national spouses for immigration purposes. At last, married binational same-sex couples will no longer fear separation from each other or be forced to live their lives in legal limbo.

Q&A: Sion Fullana on photographing same-sex couples and speaking out against DOMA

In recent years, Sion has learned the power of photography, and he has worked hard to develop his photographic passions in order to share stories of why marriage matters, how same-sex couples share the same love and commitment that different-sex couples share, and why DOMA needs to be overturned.

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Resources Related to Binational Couples

Asians, Gay Marriage, and Immigration: Family Unification at a Crossroads

Penn State law professor, Victor C. Romero, examines marriage equality and it’s impact on binational couples in the APA community.

Our Lives and Dreams Are at the Mercy of DOMA

Story of a binational same-sex couple at the mercy of the Defense of Marriage Act, presented by GLAD.

Family, Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples Under U.S. Law

In this report, binational couples tell stories of abuse by immigration officials and even deportation.

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Voices for Equality: Binational Couples

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