Although it thrilled progressives and other supporters of marriage equality — and maybe even changed a few minds on the issue – President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this month didn’t, in-and-of-itself, change any policy. Obama’s words don’t allow any new same-sex unions which had previously been outlawed, or even alleviate any discrimination against those already married.
But that’s just what some largely anonymous officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were able to accomplish Tuesday for a lesbian couple legally wed in Vermont.
Agency officials had previously denied Japanese-born Takako Ueda a spousal permanent resident card – also known as a green card – because, under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), her nuptials to an American citizen, Frances Herbert, are not recognized at the federal level. The couple live in Dummerston, Vt.
However, Tuesday, the Green Mountain State’s trio of left-leaning federal lawmakers announced that USCIS officials reversed themselves by using the agency’s discretion to grant “deferred action” to Ueda, in effect suspending any potential deportation for now.
Earlier the lawmakers also had sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging that USCIS reconsider its December 2011 decision to deny a spousal green card for Ueda, who has been with Herbert for a decade and married last year. The lawmakers asked that the agency re-evaluate its policy on marriage-based immigration petitions for same-sex spouses, and particularly for the Dummerston couple.
In a joint statement on Tuesday’s breakthrough, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch say: “We welcome this remedy that for now will offer a measure of common sense and compassion for this Vermont couple. Ms. Ueda now will be able to apply to USCIS for authorization to work, and to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license. All three of our offices have worked hard to support this loving and committed couple who have been unfairly prevented by DOMA from enjoying the rights and benefits that all lawfully married couples deserve.”