March 3, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
DOMA lawsuit planned for gay bi-national couples

Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

An organization focused on immigration-related LGBT issues is planning a lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act that would be the first ever to challenge the statute on the basis that it’s unfair to married bi-national same-sex couples.

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, said his organization is preparing to bring suit on behalf of gay Americans who are married and their have marriage recognized in their home state, but are unable to sponsor their partners for residency under immigration law.

Preparation for the lawsuit comes in the wake of the announcement from President Obama last week that he will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act against litigation in court.

“There’s no doubt that the administration’s new stance on DOMA has created a new window of opportunity to advocate on behalf of our families within the court system,” Ralls said. “We believe we have a good shot at winning and securing immigration rights for, at the very least, couples who are legally married in states where those marriages are valid.”

Ralls said Immigration Equality is in the process of identifying potential plaintiffs for the lawsuit in places throughout the country where same-sex marriage is recognized.

The residency of the selected plaintiffs will determine where the lawsuit is filed. Ralls said the most likely places where Immigration Equality will bring suit are the First Circuit and the Second Circuit, although the D.C. circuit is also a possibility.

Ralls said he hopes to have plaintiffs identified within the next three to four weeks, and the suit will follow shortly thereafter.

“We believe there is a real opportunity to bring a successful challenge in federal court and win a victory for couples who are struggling to remain together under current immigration laws,” Ralls said. “We’re expanding our legal advocacy work to include a federal challenge because, as the legal experts on bi-national couples and immigration law, we believe we have the expertise to mount the strongest possible suit.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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