Calif. binational gay couple’s marriage among first to be federally recognized

179703554SACRAMENTO — A recent federal decision relieved a binational gay couple of the fear of deportation.

Tom Knutson and Phan Datthuyawat have been together for 20 years and got married in 2008, but Datthuyawat, from Thailand, hasn’t been able to visit his ailing 84-year-old mother because he can’t leave the country and return legally without a green card, according to The Sacramento Bee.

On Oct. 15, however, a United States Customs and Immigrations Service official approved giving Datthuyawat a green card, making him and Knutson one of the first binational gay couples to have their marriage recognized by federal government officials. Officials denied Datthuyawat’s petition for a green card in January.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, foreign-born gay and lesbian partners of American citizens had legal ground to petition for a green card. The fear of deportation is justifiable for immigrant same-sex couples who don’t have their papers. The Sacramento Bee reported Luxembourger Pascale Fusshoeller was ordered to be deported after a traffic stop earlier this month and is battling to stay in the U.S. with her American-born wife.

The USCIS said it is now processing same-sex marriages the same way as opposite-sex unions and does not differentiate by orientation. However, length of marriage remains a factor. If a couple has been married for less than two years, the government will subject them to more scrutiny to ensure there is no marriage fraud. That can work against same-sex couples who could not marry legally or were reluctant to come forward and publicize the nature of their unions.

—  Steve Ramos

Napolitano directs INS to process green card applications for gay couples

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano

Binational couples may officially begin applying for green cards for the non-citizen spouse.

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement Monday.

“To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,” she said.

—  David Taffet

Gay binational Texas couples must choose between partner and country

Tammy and Sally

For the holidays, GetEQUAL and Out4Immigration have been telling stories of same-sex couples forced to choose between country and partner.

Several of those stories involve Texas couples.

Art, a U.S. citizen from San Antonio, and Stuart, a citizen of the U.K.. are an example of a couple struggling to stay together despite U.S. marriage and immigration laws.

GetEQUAL’s Heather Cronk wrote in a press release that for more than 36,000 binational same-sex couples, holidays are times of sadness and loneliness, as LGBT Americans are prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act from sponsoring their same-sex partner for immigration purposes.

Despite the White House’s refusal to defend the law in court, Congressional Republicans have spent $1.5 million defending the law in 14 pending cases and hit the spending limit set forth with the approval of the Committee on House Administration.

After the jump, read the stories of Texas couples Art and Stuart and Sally and Tammy.

—  David Taffet