Immigration Reform and Same Sex Marriage

Two of the most anticipated developments this year are what Congress will do about immigration reform and how the Supreme Court will rule on same sex marriage.

It is very significant that there is much intersection between these issues, despite little connection being drawn publicly between them.

If the High Court decides that there is a constitutional right to gay marriage, this legal victory will have far reaching effects on couples who are unable to avail themselves of family based green cards, even if they have been married in a state that recognizes same sex weddings.

This problem has been vexing to the immigrant and United States citizen who live together in a long term, committed relationship. The citizen cannot petition for his or her spouse to receive lawful permanent residence under current federal law. The immigrant is left to seek other means to apply for a legal immigration status. But this solution eludes many. They are left to fend for themselves. They often live underground and undocumented when a perfectly good marriage based green card should await them.

Congress has been engaged in many highly publicized discussions about changing immigration law to legalize the status of millions of undocumented immigrants. But there is hardly a mention in these proceedings about gay marriage.

Therefore, it is up to the Supreme Court to decide if same sex couples will be given the same rights as heterosexuals. In the meantime, immigration attorneys must continue to be ingenious in our efforts to assist gay couples who cannot yet seek green cards through marriage.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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