A Philippine gay immigrant on Thursday
filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which bars federal agencies from
recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
The Center for Human Rights and
Constitutional Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jane DeLeon, an
immigrant from the Philippines, and her U.S. wife Irma Rodriguez.
The couple married in California in 2008, during the brief months
when gay marriage was legal in the state.
Peter Schey, executive director of the
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the lead attorney
in the case, would like the lawsuit to win class-action designation
so it could apply to the estimated thousands of binational gay
couples. Schey called the suit against the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security the first proposed class action of its kind.
to the lawsuit, Jane DeLeon has been residing with Rodriguez for
20 years. DeLeon has been approved for an immigrant visa based on
her employment, but she needs a waiver from the U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Service (“CIS”) because she entered the country in
1989 using the name of her then common-law husband. Such waivers are
issued if an immigrant's deportation would cause extreme hardship to
a U.S. citizen spouse. DeLeon's waiver was denied in September
because her marriage is not recognized by the federal government.
DeLeon's son, Martin R. Aranas, who was
9 when his mother brought him to the United States, also faces
“My legalization depends on my
mother's case,” said Aranas, 25, in a statement. “After many
years of having temporary legal status, I now face being in 'illegal'
status only because my mother is in a same sex marriage.”