Adjusting to Gay Marriage Reality

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski , The Washington Times

Both the Obama administration and the GOP have pivoted swiftly on key regulatory and legal issues in the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision on gay marriage that invalidated a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The federal government is moving to revamp regulations to improve the treatment of same-sex couples, while House Republicans earlier this month withdrew from a Massachusetts case challenging DOMA's constitutionality after spearheading the move to defend it in 2011.

A significant step within the federal government came when the Department of Homeland Security finalized new guidelines on immigration petitions for same-sex couples, saying that visa applications for a foreign national in a same-sex marriage will be treated in the same manner as applications for heterosexual unions.

A same-sex engagement has the same effect, according to guidelines from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Administration officials said they would also reopen past petitions or applications that were denied solely because of the section of the law - now deemed unconstitutional.

The new rules finalized Friday are one of the first aftershocks of the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling overturning key sections of the 1996 law, which forbids the federal government from recognizing gay marriages in administering programs and determining benefits.

Another was the quiet withdrawal from a case in Massachusetts by the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, controlled by Republicans, in which gay members of the U.S. military had challenged the constitutionality of DOMA.

Though the group said in a brief that the constitutionality of a section similar to the one struck down by the Supreme Court is still in question, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court's opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statute.

As for the federal government, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet A. Napolitano had directed immigration services shortly after the ruling 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. …