The ripple effect of DOMA’s defeat has now reached the State Department.
Same-sex spouses applying for visas will no longer be treated differently than opposite-sex spouses. The policy change will apply to all American citizens and foreigners, regardless of sexual orientation, so long as the jurisdiction in which they were married recognizes such unions.
“Effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses,” said Secretary of State John Kerry Friday, shortly after arriving in London from Pakistan. “If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.”
“Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate,” he said.
Under U.S law, visas are required to visit or live in the U.S. permanently. The change in policy will help foreigners in legal same-sex marriages with American citizens acquire entry to the U.S. It will also allow gay foreigners legally married overseas to be considered jointly.
Kerry, who voted against a 1996 law that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage, said his decision was “one of those moments when policy and values join together.”
“One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people,” said Kerry. “We believe in working to do better and to live up to these higher values, and we try to do it in a lot of different ways. Today is one of those days.”
The Supreme Court in June struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage that defined marriage as between a man and woman for federal purposes. Kerry said he was proud that 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.”