Tag Archives: New York Times

Deportation Proceedings Dismissed in Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Case

30 Jun

Josh Vandiver (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

With marriage equality now a reality in New York, our next step is securing more state victories while at the same time – overturning the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As we discussed here recently, there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of DOMA, including now 14 federal court cases finding the law to be unconstitutional.

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency.

Last month, AG Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He followed up with four questions to the board:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

While there is no news as to any answers received by AG Holder, some incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family yesterday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department. The judge granted the motion to close the case on June 13th and the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway received official copy of the order yesterday. While the decision was confirmed, no further information on future similar immigration cases was given.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Valendia said: “I can start breathing now after so many months of fighting. I was holding my breath for fear of any moment being sent away.” he continued by saying the decision was a “big step forward” but did not address the continued problem of whether federal recognition of marriage equality would become a reality. “The fight isn’t over.” Valendia said.

Congratulations to the Valendia-Vandiver family and thank you for the work you’ve done in advancing equality.

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry also commented on the government’s decision to dismiss these proceedings:

“Freedom to Marry applauds the U.S. government for bringing anend to this deportation process, which threatened to cruelly separate a couple who, like so many others, fell in love, made a lifetime commitment to one another, and got married – but because they are gay, were denied the normal family immigration protections afforded other married couples.  While this exercise of sound government discretion is most welcome, Josh and Henry, along with so many other families, should not be vulnerable to the unfair treatment or uncertainty caused by federal marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.  It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and end the hardship and unfairness that burden the lives of loving and committed couples.”

BREAKING: GLAD, ACLU File New Federal Challenges to DOMA

8 Nov

Our friends at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) are at it again.

Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, photo: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Tomorrow, they will be filing another lawsuit against 1996’s so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Earlier this year on behalf of couples from Massachusetts who were legally married, GLAD filed it’s first federal suit against DOMA and was successful with a Boston federal judge. Obama’s Department of Justice is in the process of appealing that decision.

In today’s New York Times article, plaintiff Joanne Pedersen tried to add her spouse Ann Meitzen to her federal health insurance and was denied, again. Currently legally married in Connecticut, Pedersen and Meitzen are being represented by GLAD in their challenge to DOMA.

Tomorrow their will be two federal lawsuits filed against DOMA, one by GLAD and the other by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU is representing Edith C. Windsor, whose spouse died last year of aortic stenosis. Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor in their NY Times wedding announcement

and her wife Thea C. Spyer were married in Toronto in 2007 but the couple lived in New York (which recognizes marriages performed elsewhere). Windsor was responsible for a $350,000 estate tax that were she and Spyer heterosexual, she would not have had to pay.

Edith and Thea were also the subjects of the recent film, “Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement.” Having met in 1965 in New York’s West Village, Edie recalled dancing so much on the night they met, that she wore a hole in her stocking. This incredible story spans an incredible half-century where they would go from having to keep their relationship a secret to getting married in Toronto in 2007.

As is outlined in the New York Times article, these cases represent the way LGBT couples are falling through the cracks in the system. Even though legally married in their states, the federal government is failing to recognize individual states freedoms because of the discriminatory and unconstitutional DOMA.

Many thanks to GLAD the ACLU and our brave plaintiffs for bringing your stories forward.