In honor of gay pride month, I wanted to celebrate the fact that 10 years ago the United States chose to join the group of (now close to 30) nations that have legalized same sex marriage. Same sex marriage was legalized in the US in the summer of 2013, and since then our firm has helped many same-sex couples stay in the US by assisting in same sex immigration through marriage
The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in the Windsor case in the summer of 2013 resulted in the brand new eligibility of gay and lesbian couples to marry and file green card applications when one of the spouses is an immigrant. This impacted the immigration world enormously – opening an avenue for same sex couples to apply to stay together through marriage-based immigration.
We were not the first country to legalize gay marriage (that was Netherlands in 2001), and we still have a long way to go, but we are at the top of the pack globally in terms of our legal acceptance of same sex marriage and couples.
While globally, a host of countries have legalized same sex marriage, many still oppose it on penalty of death.
HOW DO OTHER PLACES IN THE WORLD COMPARE TO THE US IN SAME SEX MARRIAGE?
THERE ARE MORE THAN 80 NATIONS WHERE SAME SEX MARRIAGE IS ILLEGAL, MAINLY IN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST.
- A 14-year prison sentence may be imposed in Nigeria on people who are convicted of entering a same sex marriage or civil union. The Nigerian law voids same sex marriage from outside the country as well.
- Uganda passed law that would make “some gay acts punishable by life in prison.”
- Russia too has made news lately with anti-gay policy. In 2013, Russia made it a crime to distribute “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.” And there were reports of gay men and women being rounded up into camps and tortured in Chechnya.
- Countries where the death penalty is enacted for same sex acts:
WHAT ABOUT BISEXUAL OR TRANS MARRIAGES?
Things can get tricky if you are someone who was previously married to or had a relationship with one gender, but are now claiming marriage to another.
Bisexual marriages can get called into question by officers that don’t understand that a person can validly love both men and women.
OR that a person might have married a man or woman in their home country, because in that country they would be persecuted -or even killed- for being gay (We even have won asylum cases on these grounds).
Marriage fraud is a very serious offense, but valid relationships do not always look the way they did twenty years ago. This can make it tough for couples who are bisexual, or even those that have “open” relationships. Immigration will generally hold hearings with married couples to confirm their relationships are valid, and officers will need to see evidence that the same sex immigration marriage is real. This proof – along with questions about the couple’s life together – are fundamental to achieving approval of green card. As of early 2023, Immigration is waiving interviews in some cases when the evidence is very compelling.
Immigration Officers may question the validity of your relationship if:
- You are an immigrant or American with a divorce from an earlier heterosexual marriage.
- You are in an open relationship where it is agreed that you can have multiple partners of either sex.
STILL, MANY IN THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY COME TO THE US FOR ASYLUM
Even with some of the individual challenges still faced in the US, the abhorrent treatment of gay people in other countries has resulted in many immigrants fleeing their homelands to seek relief in the United States.
A viable protection for anyone seeking safe harbor from sexual persecution is political asylum. Our law firm has won asylum and related protection for gay individuals from Jamaica as well as countries in Africa and South America.
While cases like the baker who was legally granted to the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple by the Supreme Court may make it challenging to believe we are moving forward, it is fair to say that -in immigration law at least- there is a more enlightened stance. This phenomenon may occur because:
- Human rights issues are often at the forefront of immigration law.
- The United States of America has come a long way in a short time in protecting the rights of immigrants involved in same sex marriage.
- That said, the law is still very complicated.
- Be careful if you are gay or lesbian and from another country, seeking to reside permanently in this country.
It is easy to get lost in negative press, but the US is still one of the best places to live in the world if you are in a gay relationship. Be aware that although we live in a great nation which has laws that are the opposite of those in more than 80 countries, you will still need professional guidance if you are hoping to be granted legal residence in the US.