Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Same-Sex Marriages and “DOMA”

defRecently, the U.S. Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. government agencies will adjudicate applications for federal benefits that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses. This means that the same sex spouse will be eligible for the same or derivative benefits. Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status.

If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for purposes of obtaining federal government benefits. At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for immigration purposes.

For most federal benefits involving children or step-children, the marriage must have taken place before the child in question turns or turned 18.

If cases were previously submitted and denied by the government, solely based on reasons relating to “DOMA”, the government will now usually reopen those petitions or applications. The government will usually take steps to reconsider its prior adverse decision, as well as reopen associated applications to the extent they were also denied as a result of the primary denial (Example: when Form I-130 was denied, and subsequently Form I-485 is denied, all related cases will be reopened).

Update on Russian Ban on U.S.-bound Child Adoptions

Just days ago, the Russian Supreme Court issued a letter providing guidance to regional courts. The letter clarifies that families that have had their preliminary court date prior to January 1, 2013 will be able to assume physical custody and obtain the necessary documents from Russian authorities to exit the country. This will be the case even if the 30 day waiting period expired after January 1, 2013. To date, 25 families have obtained visas to leave the country and some have travelled home with their children.

At the same time, other families in-country have experienced delays and have been unable to obtain necessary paperwork from Russian authorities. It is hoped that the Russian Supreme Court letter will help families move forward. Families who fall into this category should contact the U.S. Embassy in Russia, if they have not already done so. They should also keep in close contact with their adoption service providers who are still permitted to process these transition cases and who have more real-time information.