Sean and Steven preparing for the deportation hearing. (Photo/ Courtesy DOMA Project)

Minutes after DOMA struck down, married gay man’s deportation halted

Just moments after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, an immigration judge halted a married gay man’s deportation.

The New York City judge immediately stopped the deportation proceedings of  gay Colombian man Steven, who is married to American citizen Sean Brooks. Steven has not lived in Colombia for 12 years.

An intern from The DOMA Project, a campaign of gay binational couples, sprinted five blocks to get the 77-page Supreme Court decision to the judge at the deportation hearing. He made it in time for the decision to be submitted to the Immigration Judge and to serve a copy on the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Assistant Chief Counsel.

Lavi Soloway, Steven’s attorney and founder of The DOMA Project, says that Steven had left for court just ahead of the decision’s announcement to make his 10:30am hearing.

“We knew a year ago that we were going to have a hearing on June 26th, and we knew that the Supreme Court would rule on DOMA, but we didn’t know that it would happen on the same day. When they announced that today was the last decision day, we were planning for either outcome,” Soloway says. “The pages were literally still warm from the printer.”

After receiving the Supreme Court decision, the judge immediately adjourned the court.

Steven and Sean are just one of 24,700 binational same-sex couples around the country and Steven’s halted deportation is one of the first for other couples like them. A report by the Center for American Progress estimates that there are at least 267,000 LGBT identified individuals among the undocumented population.

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Sean Brooks, a New York musician, has been together with Steven for over ten years. The couple has been married, since gay marriage was legalized in New York in 2011. Yet when they got married was also when they began their struggle to stay together in the United States.

Sean tried to petition for a green card for his husband, but the petition was denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, federal benefits, including being able to sponsor a non-citizen spouse, only applied to marriage between a man and a woman.

Under DOMA, the hardship the deportation would have on his spouse was therefore not considered a valid reason.

“It makes a mockery of the victory of marriage equality to know that the most powerful government in this country, the federal government in Washington D.C., refuses to recognize our marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act,” Sean wrote in a blog for The DOMA Project in 2011. “They would just as soon deport Steven even though we have been together as a couple for seven years and we are legally married.”

RELATED: Supreme Court ruling opens pathway for binational couples on immigration

After Wednesday’s momentous ruling, a citizen who has been legally married in a state which allows gay marriages can legally sponsor his or her non-citizen same-sex spouse.

According to Soloway, the couple was overjoyed to learn that Steven would get to stay in the United States without fear of deportation.

In a statement Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pledged to ensure that the ruling immediately extends in practice to same-sex binational couples.

“This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits,” Napolitano said in a statement. “Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today’s decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.”

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