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Same-sex couples to be treated equally under immigration laws

For years we have been writing about the hardships bi-national same-sex couples faced under the U.S. immigration laws. Spouses and fiances of U.S. citizens have long been able to enter the United States using marriage and fiance visas, but the same was not true for same-sex couples who were legally married in a jurisdiction that allowed it.

However, with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer, it appears that legally-married same-sex couples will finally be treated fairly under the immigration laws.

At a meeting last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals will now be treated the same as opposite-sex spouses under the laws so long as the marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it.

Currently, there are 13 states that recognize same-sex marriage. When the Supreme Court ruled in June to strike down DOMA, it held that gay couples who are legally married in these states should have the same federal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, including under immigration laws.

An undidentified official from the State Department told CNN that there are currently about 100 visa applications that will be directly affected by this change. The source said many additional visa applications from same-sex spouses are expected to arrive after people get wind of the policy change.

At last week's announcement, Kerry said the State Department was "tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States."

Source: CNN, "Kerry: Same-sex spouses' visas will get equal treatment," Jill Dougherty and Tom Cohen, Aug. 2, 2013

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