Somewhat surprisingly, conservative leaders of Maryland’s movement against illegal immigrants have not criticized the effort to extend green-card rights to gay spouses. Brad Botwin, who heads Help Save Maryland, a group that strongly opposed Dream Act legislation for undocumented immigrants, said his group was content to wait and see what the Supreme Court decides on DOMA.
“Every situation has opportunities for abuse, but this is not really an immigration issue,” said Botwin. He noted that his daughter is engaged to a man from England and will probably apply for a green card for him. “The question is, which should have more legal standing, that a person got married or that the person is an immigrant? We need to let the legal process play out.”
On a national level, more than 50 organizations — including gay rights groups and Hispanic and Asian-American advocates — appealed this month to President Obama to allow all pending immigration petitions for gay spouses be “held in abeyance” until the high court rules.
Immigration Equality, one of the groups, filed the green card petition for Morales and Costello and also filed suit on behalf of several other gay binational couples, arguing that DOMA violated their rights to equal protection under U.S. laws.
“Pablo and I have been together for more than 20 years. We never wanted to break the law or create any problems. We just want what’s fair,” said Santiago Cortez, 57, a retired school psychologist in the New York borough of Queens whose partner Pablo Garcia, 52, is a native of Venezuela. The couple married last year in Connecticut. “We fulfill every requirement for his green card but one,” Cortez said. “We are both men.”
Despite its own stated concerns about DOMA, the Obama administration appears unlikely to grant the requests for a blanket “abeyance” on green-card applications. Although U.S. officials have leeway to suspend individual deportations on humanitarian grounds, they say they are required to enforce DOMA and do not possess the same legal flexibility to tinker with federal benefits such as green cards.
In a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security reiterated that “the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect” and that the department “will continue to enforce it unless and until Congress repeals it, or there is a final determination that it is unconstitutional.”
For Costello and Morales, who met through friends in 2007, life has been good in many ways. Their immediate families have embraced their relationship and rallied to their cause. Both women have built solid careers, and Morales, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Georgetown University, has been able to parlay her studies and skills into a string of work and student visas.
The two live a quiet life in the affluent Maryland suburbs, staying with Costello’s parents to save money. Morales’s Peruvian relatives, who live in Miami, often visit for Christmas and other holidays. The women love to show visitors their wedding album and the sonogram with the twins Kelly is carrying, due in July. But now, their excitement is tinged with tension and worry for the future.
“We were made for each other,” Morales said, taking Costello’s hand nervously as they sat on a sofa in the family’s spacious Potomac home. “She is my best friend, my motivation in life. Our future as a family is here, together. Why should I have to choose between her and another country?”