In a landmark ruling on Wednesday, June 26, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor, a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA prohibited the U.S. federal government from recognizing valid same-sex marriage licenses for federal reasons including immigration benefits. Same-sex marriage licenses are currently issued by 13 states, including California, and the District of Columbia.
By invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court has paved the way for federal agencies such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin providing benefits to same-sex couples. On Friday, June 28, just two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, USCIS approved its first marriage petition based on a same-sex marriage to a same-sex couple married in New York and residing in Florida. Based on that approval it appears that USCIS will adjudicate immediate relative petitions for same-sex couples exactly as they would the same petitions from opposite-sex couples. USCIS has yet to offer any official policy guidance for any differences that may arise due to DOMA being struck down.