Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA)

With the recent overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, more commonly known as "DOMA," U.S. citizens married to non-Americans of the same sex are now able to get the same federal benefits that were once only offered to opposite-sex couples.

What Is DOMA?

DOMA refers to the "Defense of Marriage Act" Section 3, which before June 26, 2013, did not afford same-sex married couples the same benefits that opposite-sex couples could receive. The case that brought the DOMA ruling was United States v. Windsor, which ultimately decided that the term "marriage" is to include same-sex couples. Previously, the term "marriage" was defined only as a union between a man and woman for the purposes of federal laws and rulings. The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the country, ruled that denying same-sex couples the same benefits that are offered to opposite-sex couples was in direct violation of the United States Constitution because it "was a deprivation of liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment."

How Does DOMA Apply To Same-Sex Couples?

As of July 1, 2013, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated that, effective immediately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must review petitions and applications of same-sex marriages in the same manner as those filed by opposite-sex couples. Because of the ruling in Windsor, there will not be any discrimination against same-sex marriages when applying for immigration benefits. It is estimated that as of now, 36,000 same-sex couples are affected by this new DOMA ruling, allowing them to apply for benefits of their spouses.

For the first time ever, same-sex couples and relatives of same-sex couples can be eligible for federal benefits in the immigration field, ranging from visas to removal proceedings.

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