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UPDATED: US Attorney General Makes “Extraordinary” Move To End Deportation of LGBT Spouses

Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver

UPDATE, 12:15pm PST: Attorney Lavi Solloway comments: “This development could be a sign that the Obama administration is looking for a way to protect gay and lesbian bi-national couples who are currently barred from the regular marriage-based immigration process by the Defense of Marriage Act … Tomorrow, another New Jersey couple faces an Immigration Judge at a final deportation hearing in Newark. We will ask the Immigration Judge to adjourn proceedings in light of today’s action by the Attorney General.”

UPDATE, 12:30pm PST: Ground Report observes that it would have been even better if Holder had actually ruled on DOMA, rather than just asking the BIA to reconsider. According to Matthew Kolken, this is a “punt.” AMERICAblog chimes in and notes that there may be implications for Henry Velandia’s hearing tomorrow.

UPDATE, 12:45pm PST: Here’s a list of some of the couples facing deportation right now whose cases might be affected by this amazing news.


Metro Weekly is reporting that Attorney General Eric Holder, in a stunning move, has vacated a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and has recommended specific findings with regard to cancellation of deportation.

This is huge.

In other words: Holder is saying to the BIA: “stop this specific deportation. Look at what’s going on with DOMA. Think very long and hard about whether you should be deporting a couple that has a civil union.” (Our words, not his.)

Why is this so big? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, it means that the Attorney General of the United States is interested enough in doing the right thing that he is personally intervening in individual appeals for citizenship. Second, it means that he’s not satisfied with the “Super-DOMA” rulings that are forcing unnecessary deportations.

But the biggest deal of all is that this is a case in which the respondent has a civil union — not a marriage. This is a huge huge huge deal for all the bi-national couples in states that do not have marriage. It means that it might be enough to get a civil union if you want to keep your partner in this country.

Now, this doesn’t mean that anything has been decided. The BIA could still take a careful look at DOMA and civil unions and decide, “no, we’re still going to deport gays.” But it’s equivalent to your boss saying “are you suuuuuuure you want to do that?” So if nothing else, it’s likely to give them pause.

This will no doubt prompt some mouth-foaming from anti-gays about how it proves that civil unions are just marriage by any other name. And while it’s true that civil unions afford many of the same protections as marriage — because that it the whole point of why they exist — you can shut that argument up pretty quickly by saying, “well, if it’s the same thing as marriage, why don’t you go get one?”

This is a developing story and we’ll have more analysis as more experts weigh in. But for now: amazing, wonderful, very promising news indeed.

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