WASHINGTON – A day after President Obama made a historic announcement in support of gay marriage, Senator John Kerry joined 16 colleagues Thursday in urging the White House to delay enforcement of restrictions on immigrants who risk deportation because of their same-sex marriages.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the senators said they were troubled that some immigration field offices “are apparently following a blanket policy to deny green card applications for all gay spouses.”
Such cards are regularly given to heterosexual spouses.
The senators are seeking a delay in enforcing certain elements of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, until courts can rule on the constitutionality of the law.
Today’s letter follows one sent last spring that sought similar action. The agencies had responded by agreeing to look at cases affected by DOMA on a case-by-case basis. But based on anecdotal reports, the senators said in today’s letter, “this policy is not currently being exercised.”
The senators, 16 Democrats and an independent, requested that the agencies provide written guidance to immigration personnel “so that all offices are consistent based on the departments’ intent to protect families.”
“Too often families are unnecessarily being forced into limbo and broken apart due to a lack of clear direction,” the letter said.
More than a dozen same-sex couples have sought help from Kerry to keep their families intact and delay deportation proceedings while courts decide the ultimate fate of the federal marriage law.
“With marriage equality rights being extended to more and more citizens of this country, and with the Department of Justice’s repudiation of DOMA, we are concerned with the toll the continued denial of I-130 applications for same-sex immigrant spouses is exacting on families in this country,” the letter stated. “Denials of these applications have caused extreme hardship for many legally married couples, forcing them to choose between leaving the country or breaking the law.”
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Obama said he now supports allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.
“At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told the network.
Kerry was joined in the letter by several senators from New England: Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Chris Coons of Delaware, as well as independent Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont.