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Could the Supreme Court make it easier for couples to immigrate?

Although Pennsylvania does not currently recognize same-sex marriage, it is extremely likely that there are same-sex couples who have traveled to other states to get married and have returned home to Pennsylvania. Though these marriages are not recognized by either the state or federal governments, there is the possibility that an upcoming Supreme Court decision could change at least the federal recognition. And this could have immigration consequences for binational same-sex couples in Pennsylvania.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in June that could potentially rule the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The Act has been used by the federal government to deny federal benefits to individuals in same-sex marriages across the country, even if they live in states that grant and recognize same-sex marriage. One of those federal benefits is family-based immigration, meaning that American spouses in same-sex marriages cannot petition for their foreign spouses to immigrate to the United States. In order to remain together and in the United States, couples must use other ways to bring their spouses to the United States than the traditional family-based immigration system.

If the Supreme Court rules the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, however, it could mean that binational couples who were married outside of Pennsylvania would be able to petition for their spouses to get permanent residency and, in time, to naturalize as Americans.

The Supreme Court ruling is several months off, but there are many couples in Pennsylvania who likely are waiting with bated breath on the outcome of this decision.

Source: ABC News, "DOMA Ruling Could Mean Green Cards for Gay Immigrants," Emily Deruy, March 27, 2013

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