Pride month is so great because it is a recognition of all of the progress that has been made. It’s also an important reminder of the progress and the steps that still need to be taken for equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride month is even more than that.
The great thing about pride month is that it is a reminder that there is no substitute for being a hundred percent unapologetically you. The world is a better place when we all do that and when we are all accepting of each other’s differences because that’s what makes life fun.
Here at our firm, we represented hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of couples in navigating the immigration process. We love our job because we love getting to work with so many different and unique individuals and knowing rather that every couple is so unique.
To celebrate pride month, we’ll discuss the changes in immigration as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community and also discuss some of the common questions that we receive.
History of LGBTQ+ in Immigration
Before 2013, same-sex couples were not afforded the same protections or the same rights in the world of immigration as it relates to marriage-based cases. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, the Defense Against Marriage Act that said marriage had to be between a man and a woman.
Fast forward to 2015, the Supreme Court made another wonderful decision that said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in every state. That really changed the landscape of immigration and marriage-based cases. Same-sex couples should have the same process as any other couple going through the immigration process.
Immigration Treatment For Same-Sex Couples
Something that we are asked a lot by couples is whether or not immigration officers at the immigration interview and those reviewing the applications treat same-sex couples differently. A lot of couples are worried that they might be disrespected at the interview or that they might have additional hurdles to overcome.
We represent couples all over the United States and all over the world. We’ve had attended interviews with couples in many different states and we’re happy to report that the immigration officers that have conducted our interviews for our clients have been respectful. We have not had any issues with any type of disrespect or unfair standards in the immigration interviews or in the decision-making of the applications.
How to Feel Safe During the Immigration Process
However, if you are nervous about your immigration interview or to be treated with disrespect in your interview, you have options and rights you can use so you can feel more comfortable on that important day.
If you are disrespected at your interview or if you feel that the officer is treating you differently, you can ask to speak with a supervisor. That could be a little uncomfortable since you’re already on the hot seat being asked about your relationship.
You might not feel comfortable asking to speak with the supervisor so you could ask to stop the interview and then try to speak with a supervisory officer. Alternatively, you can bring an immigration attorney with you to the interview to prevent any nerves that you might have on that front. Immigration attorneys can also help navigate that for you if that were to happen.
No matter your concern, you have the ability to ask for a supervisory officer who is the main boss at the immigration offices where you will have your interview. Ask to speak with them and discuss your concerns.
Immigration also has an investigation department or a department where you can make complaints. USCIS has on their website information about if you have been treated unfairly or if you have a concern about the service, you can make a formal complaint.
Hopefully, your experience is equal to the experience we’ve had where the immigration officers have been respectful in doing their job. Be reminded that they aren’t there to be your friend. They have an important job to do: to make sure you have a real relationship.
More Progress For Immigration
One of the things that same-sex couples may experience is that if you are filing an application as a same-sex couple and you previously had an application or if you’ve previously been through an immigration process and you were in a relationship with the opposite sex, immigration tends to look into that more.
Immigration is looking at that as a red flag. That isn’t fair but the reality of this situation is that immigration might have additional questions about whether or not that prior relationship that you were married to the opposite sex and filed an immigration application was real.
If we have a client with this situation, we make sure in advance that we have evidence to show that that was a real relationship previously. We don’t submit that with the application but we anticipate that. That’s just one of the aspects of progress that could still be made in the immigration context.
Some of the immigration forms are a little antiquated in the language they use. Some of the forms still use general terms like gender instead of sex. For the most part, immigration has made a concerted effort to change that on the forms.
Also, the forms don’t really provide for the ability of individuals to designate that they are transitioning. In that context, we just have to work with the forms as they are and usually we’ll put a notation or something in the addendum of the form to explain that.