Immigrant files proposed class action suit over U.S. gay marriage ban

Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:02pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Philippine immigrant filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking a legal right to stay in the United States based on her same-sex marriage to an American.

The suit seeks to win for gays and lesbians the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples. The group that helped file the suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called it the first proposed class action of its kind.

Plaintiffs Jane DeLeon, an immigrant from the Philippines, her son Martin Aranas, 25, and DeLeon's U.S. spouse Irma Rodriguez challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

President Barack Obama said last year he considered the 1996 law unconstitutional and would no longer defend it. But the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles faults the Obama administration for reviewing immigration cases involving same-sex couples on a case-by-case basis, rather than placing them on hold while courts determine DOMA's constitutionality.

Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the lead attorney in the case, said the waiver DeLeon was seeking to stay in the country was often granted to heterosexual couples.

"Our immediate concern is with the failure of the administration to implement a policy to provide protection from deportation for immigrants in same-sex marriages, as they've done recently for undocumented youth," Schey said.

Several federal court rulings have called into question the constitutionality of DOMA. On May 31, a federal appeals court in Boston found DOMA unconstitutionally denied federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples. The ruling is expected to lead to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on DOMA.

Six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.   Continued...