By Erica Pearson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Five married gay and lesbian couples are bringing legal action against the feds, saying they should get the same immigration rights as straight pairs.
The plaintiffs are all U.S. citizens who have applied for green cards for their immigrant spouses and have either been turned down or expect to be denied.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which does not recognize gay marriages, bars U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from considering a gay spouse to be the "relative" of a U.S. citizen.
Plaintiffs in the suit include Long Island couple Edwin Blesch and Tim Smulian — who told the Daily News last year about their struggle to stay together in the U.S.Blesch, 71, who married South African-born Smulian in 1999, said he realizes the legal battle may be lengthy.
"It's not going to happen overnight," Blesch said. "We hope that if it's resolved in our favor, we're not already sitting in our rockers in an old folks home."
The pair spent decades splitting their time between South Africa and New York to comply with Smulian's tourist visa until Blesch became too ill to travel. Because they would be able to sponsor their spouses if they were straight, Blesch and the others who filed suit Monday in Manhattan Federal Court say the Defense of Marriage Act is denying them constitutional rights.
"For immigration purposes, whether the federal government recognizes a couple's marriage can determine whether a family may remain in the United States and live together or may be torn apart," the suit argues.
The suit charges denying gay couples immigration benefits is "hateful, harmful and unlawful discrimination." The Defense of Marriage Act is already facing several high-profile legal
challenges. The Obama administration decided last year not to defend the 1996 law in
Non-profit Immigration Equality, which filed the legal action on the couples' behalf, decided to add to the legal battle instead of waiting to see how current cases play out.
"We really felt that LGBT families just couldn't wait any longer," said Rachel Tiven, the group's executive director.
Plaintiff Santiago Ortiz, 56, a retired school psychologist who lives with his Venezuelan husband, Pablo Garcia, 51, in Elmhurst, Queens, said he's hopeful a green card will eventually be in their reach.
"What we're standing up for is my right as a citizen to have my relative with me, and my closest relative is Pablo," he said. "We have rights."
Pubblicato da Lorenzo Bernini