DOMA is dead, But the fight for equality is far from over

As long as DOMA remained on the books, same-sex couples have been treated as second-class citizens. The federal government has barred thousands of loving, committed partners from protections as basic as military benefits and hospital visitation rights in its refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages.

For our nation’s 28,500 same-sex binational couples, today’s decision is so much more: it means no longer living in fear of the government tearing their family apart. Like straight couples, spouses in states that allow same-sex marriage will be now able to sponsor their partner for citizenship and keep their families together.

That means couples like Inger and Philippa Knudson-Judd will be able to reunite after four long years apart. Legally married in 2012, the two have never spent more than 89 consecutive days together despite their years as a couple. Our patchwork of failed and mismanaged immigration policies and marriage inequality has meant just one Christmas together as a family, financially ruinous travel bills and parenting a teenager by phone. The ruling on DOMA means that Inger’s family will finally have the opportunity to be whole.

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But the march toward justice is far from over. While the end of DOMA will provide thousands of same-sex binational couples with a quicker roadmap for citizenship, we are still fighting to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform for all 11 million aspiring citizens.

Today, the Senate passed a bill that has the potential to transform those immigrants’ lives. This bill includes many provisions that will particularly benefit LGBT immigrants, such as eliminating the one-year bar on applying for asylum, providing protections for DREAMers and improving conditions for people held in detention facilities. The Senate’s bill limits the use of solitary confinement and explicitly prohibits the use of this practice based solely on a detainees’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

Unfortunately, our border communities will pay a steep price for the compromises reflected in this bill. As Congress debates critical immigration reform issues, our LGBT coalition will continue to advocate for the most accessible roadmap to citizenship possible and to ardently oppose draconian amendments that would make all immigrants, including those who are LGBT, permanent second-class citizens.

In November, voters across the country reelected President Obama, casting their votes for bold action and meaningful change on big issues like immigration reform. They also stood up for LGBT equality, upholding same-sex marriage in all three states in which it was up for a vote. It’s time for our leaders to reflect the will of our country: to give the 11 million men, women and children a chance to come out of the shadows and have a clear and direct path to citizenship.

We celebrate the end of DOMA and the new age of equality for LGBT families that the court’s decision will bring. We celebrate the future of Inger and Philippa’s family and the tens of thousands of same-sex binational couples like them who will now have an easier path to citizenship once we pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But we have a long road ahead for all of America’s immigrant families to live with dignity, pursue their dreams and work for a better future. We are committed to equality for all and unity and security for every family – and that means we are far from done.

Carey is the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.