Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #76 - Part 1

Good news: Same-sex couples can be considered "family" in deportation cases

I'll start, as I always like to try to do, with a bit of good news. This time it's a small victory, but still a significant one. It's in an area from which most of the good news these days seems to come - lord knows there is little enough good news on the economy, privacy, government secrecy, on-going wars and the rest of the panoply of pain out there - but we do get good news from time to time on the issue of same-sex marriage and the broader issue of LGBT rights.

Consider this scenario: One partner of a same-sex couple is found to have entered the country illegally. They are targeted for deportation. Even if their partner is a US citizen and they were legally married and living in one of the states that recognizes same-sex marriage, that's no help - because the federal-level Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, does not recognize that marriage. DOMA defines marriage for all federal purposes as one man and one woman and non-heterosexuals need not apply.

However, the government still has prosecutorial discretion in deciding whether or not to pursue a particular case. Among the things they can consider are an individual’s ties to his or her community, including their relationships. Last Thursday, September 27, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department for the Protection of the Fatherland, instructed agents of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement - with the appropriate acronym ICE - to understand the term "family relationships" to include what she called "long-term, same-sex partners."

DOMA does not allow the agency to consider such a couple married - but now the agency will consider them to be "family." And while DOMA itself still needs to be consigned to the trashbin of bigotry from which it sprang, this shift in policy is a good thing.


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