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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 28
Senator Murray urges appointment of ombudsman for bi-national LGBT couples
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Senator Murray urges appointment of ombudsman for bi-national LGBT couples

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

In a July 8 letter, sent to Secretary Janet Napolitano, twenty-two U.S. Senators, including Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly make any necessary administrative changes and appoint an independent ombudsman for bi-national LGBT couples in response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The ruling in the United States v. Windsor case declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, allowing married bi-national LGBT couples to apply for a green card and access to federal protections and benefits.

According to Sean Coit, press secretary for Sen. Murray, before the ruling, an estimated 36,000 bi-national LGBT couples were forced to live in fear of separation because DOMA prohibited the American citizen from sponsoring their spouse for a green card.

'Last week's ruling is a major step forward in the civil rights and marriage equality movement. Immigration policy is clear that marriages are recognized as valid based on the place of celebration. Now that the Supreme Court has acted, we were pleased to see U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issue the first approval of a green card to an LGBT family in Florida,' the Senators wrote. 'We urge you to swiftly make any further necessary administrative changes required to immediately implement the ruling across the Department. We also urge you to appoint an independent ombudsman for LGBT issues who reports directly to you, is available and accessible to the public, and is empowered to resolve complaints across agencies within the Department. We believe the ombudsman is necessary to address the inquiries from LGBT couples and resolve any problems these couples face, some with very complex situations requiring careful attention.'

Senator Murray was joined in signing the letter by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

'For too long, married bi-national LGBT couples were treated as second-class citizens by our federal government and were denied equal access to federal protections and benefits,' said the Senators. 'In our immigration system, bi-national LGBT couples were forced to choose between the spouse they love and the country they love. After the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor, Americans no longer must face this choice. However, the harsh reality of DOMA has already split apart thousands of loving and committed families. Today, we write to ask for your help in remedying these past actions and ensuring our immigration policies are swiftly changed to provide equal access to LGBT couples.'

The Senators ended the letter by saying, 'Every American should have the choice to marry who they love and live in the country they love. The Supreme Court has decided in favor of justice and equality - finally making this choice possible. We thank you for your leadership on this important issue and we urge you to act decisively and quickly to correct these past injustices. We look forward to hearing back from you about the actions your Department will take and timeline for these actions, to remedy past discrimination and ensure equal access in our immigration system for all bi-national LGBT couples. As your Department moves forward to correct the systematic and unconstitutional actions of the past, we stand ready to be your allies and partners in the Senate.'

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