November 11, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Blumenthal seeks to aid lesbian bi-national couple

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The junior senator from Connecticut is asking the Obama administration to hold a green card petition for a British national in same-sex relationship who would be eligible for residency in the United States if not for the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the Nov. 10 letter, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asks the Department of Homeland Security to hold the application for Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman. The couple, married in Connecticut in 2010, is seeking a green card through a marriage-based petition so that Truman, a citizen of the United Kingdom, can reside in the United States.

“Kelli and Lucy are active and valuable members of our community,” Blumenthal writes. “The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy — a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community — is not able to stay in the United States.”

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A U.S. citizen with a Ph.D. in immunology, Ryan works for a pharmaceutical company on drug discovery research to help combat autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. Truman is an ENT surgeon and a post-doctoral fellow at Yale. The couple filed their marriage-based application on Thursday.

Blumenthal asks Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to hold the application on the basis that the Obama administration determined that DOMA is unconstitutional in February and the validity of the anti-gay law remains in question.

“The question of DOMA’s constitutionality and validity as applied to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples in states like Connecticut has yet to be decided by the federal courts and Congress,” Blumenthal writes. “Until such a final determination is made, I ask that you withhold judgment on the validity of this petition from lawfully married Connecticut citizens.”

Under current immigration law, straight Americans can sponsor their foreign spouses for residency in the United States. But the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, prohibits gay Americans from taking the same action for their same-sex spouses.

During a conference call Thursday, Ryan said the lack of her ability to sponsor her spouse for residency has been burdensome in decisions such as buying furniture, financial planning, and having children.

“There are some very simple practical everyday aspects of lives that are affected,” Ryan said. “For example, it’s really difficult to do any sort of planning — even for the short term — let alone the long term.”

Truman isn’t currently in danger of deportation from the country. She said during the conference call she’s currently able to stay within the United States on a work-based visa. However, that visa must be renewed every two years.

Blumenthal’s letter isn’t the first time lawmakers have urged DHS to hold marriage-based green applications in abeyance for bi-national gay couples. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and 47 other House members in April sent a letter to DHS asking for relief. A similar letter from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and 11 other senators was sent to DHS in the same month.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the most recent letter from Blumenthal. The Obama administration has said even though it believes DOMA is unconstitutional and won’t defend the law in court, the law will still be enforced as long as it remains on the books.

Blumenthal joins Immigration Equality is seeking to take action for Ryan and Truman. The LGBT immigration group is representing the couple in their bid to remain together in the United States.

Read the full text of Blumenthal’s letter here:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
Washington DC, 20393

Dear Madam Secretary,

I respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in particular, hold the spousal petition of Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman in abeyance pending a final determination of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Department of Justice (DOJ) has already indicated that it believes the law to be unconstitutional, and has declined to defend it in court. Moreover, the question of DOMA’s constitutionality and validity as applied to the lawful marriages of same-sex couples in states like Connecticut has yet to be decided by the federal courts and Congress. Until such a final determination is made, I ask that you withhold judgment on the validity of this petition from lawfully married Connecticut citizens.

In a letter dated April 14, 2011 addressed to you and Attorney General Holder by Representative Lofgren and 47 other members of the United States House of Representatives, similar relief was requested for all married couples of the same sex seeking spousal immigration sponsorship. These 48 Representatives asserted that holding same-sex spousal petitions in abeyance would not disrespect existing law, but would rather, “prevent the potentially irreparable harm that would be caused by application of a law that is currently under review by the courts and the U.S. Congress.” Until a final determination of the status of this law is made, the status quo should be preserved.

Also in April, Senator Kerry and 11 other Senators wrote to you and Attorney General Holder asking that you hold marriage-based petitions in abeyance pending legislative or judicial resolution of the constitutionality of DOMA. In a joint response, you and the Attorney General indicated that both DHS, including relevant sub-agencies such as USCIS, and DOJ exercise discretion in their treatment of individual cases. In my opinion, the couple in the present case deserves such review and should have their spousal petition held in abeyance.

Kelli Ryan and Lucy Truman met in Scotland in 2000. They entered into a civil union in the United Kingdom in 2006 and married in Connecticut in 2010. Kelli is a United States citizen with a Ph.D. in immunology. Lucy, who hails from the United Kingdom, is an ENT surgeon with an M.D. Ph.D. Kelli works for a pharmaceutical company in Connecticut, and is deeply engaged in drug discovery research to help combat deadly autoimmune diseases, with a particular focus on multiple sclerosis. Lucy is a post-doctoral fellow at Yale. Kelli and Lucy are active and valuable members of our community. Having been lawfully married in Connecticut, they now seek to establish long-term roots in our state. Kelli would like to sponsor Lucy for a family-based immigration visa in the hopes of making Connecticut their permanent home. The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy – a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community – is not able to stay in the United States.

In the wake of Attorney General Holder’s February 23, 2011 letter to Congress announcing that the President will no longer defend DOMA in federal court, couples like Kelli and Lucy face great uncertainty about their treatment under the law. Historically, the Department of Homeland Security has responded to such uncertainty by taking administrative actions to ensure the preservation of the status quo until a resolution has been achieved. For instance, in July 2009, DHS temporarily deferred action with regard to the widows of American citizens and their minor children to await impending legislative action that would provide those individuals with a path toward permanent resident status. A similar approach should be taken with regard to section 3 of DOMA as applied to lawful marriages of same-sex couples.

Ultimately, I believe DHS should establish a mechanism allowing couples similarly situated to Kelli and Lucy to have their green card applications held in abeyance. In the absence of such a mechanism, however, I ask that you act in this particular case to provide temporary relief to Kelli Ryan and Lucy Truman by holding their spousal petition in abeyance in an effort to avoid future harm to this couple and to the State of Connecticut. I appreciate your time and attention to this important matter.

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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