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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 18
Attorney general vacates deportation of same-sex partner
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Attorney general vacates deportation of same-sex partner

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a stunning move, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder vacated deportation orders against Paul Wilson Dorman, the legal same-sex partner of a U.S. citizen.

Holder's decision was announced May 5.

As SGN goes to press, the name of Dorman's partner and the details of their relationship remain unknown, except for the fact that they apparently reside in New Jersey.

However, Holder's statement makes it clear that the attorney general is deliberately setting aside Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

'Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals ('Board') in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ('DOMA'), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review,' Holder writes.

DOMA prevents federal authorities - including immigration officers - from according the same deference to legally married or partnered same-sex couples as they would to opposite-sex spouses.

According to a UCLA law school study, there are at least 35,000 bi-national same-sex couples in the U.S. Nearly half of them - 46% - are raising children.

On February 23, Holder announced that President Obama had concluded that DOMA Section 3 was unconstitutional, and the Justice Department would no longer defend it in court.

On March 28, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would hold deportation cases involving same-sex couples 'in abeyance,' but by March 30 the agency was saying that such cases would proceed as usual.

In his May 5 order, Holder explicitly instructs the Board of Immigration Appeals '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.'

Attorney Lavi Soloway, a co-founder of Immigration Equality, told Metro Weekly in an email, 'This development could be a sign that the Obama administration is looking for a way to protect Gay and Lesbian bi-national couples who are currently barred from the regular marriage-based immigration process by the Defense of Marriage Act.'

Immigration Equality's communications director, Steve Ralls, added, 'This seems to be a step in the right direction. I have little doubt that the recent, significant Congressional pressure on DOJ, led by Senator Kerry and Congresswoman Lofgren, played a key role in Holder's decision.'

Another couple - Josh Vandiver of Colorado and Henry Velandia of Venezuela - are scheduled for a deportation hearing on May 6. They were married in Connecticut where same-sex marriages are legal.

Soloway, their attorney, previously received a notice from the chief counsel of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that deportation proceedings against Velandia would go forward because 'the attorney general released a statement in which he indicated that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 'will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch.'

As SGN goes to press, it remains to be seen what effect, if any, Holder's May 5 order will have on Vandiver and Velandia's case.

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