DOMA ruling clears gay-rights hurdle in immigration bill

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Forget the Senate floor fight.

By striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for gay U.S. citizens to sponsor foreign-born spouses for green cards — a delicate pressure point threatening to burst a bipartisan coalition for immigration reform just days before the landmark vote.

Under DOMA, binational same-sex couples were barred from receiving immigration benefits, including the ability to have married partners live legally in the United States. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., withdrew his immigration amendment to extend that right under GOP threats to kill the broader bill. Until Wednesday's decision, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups continued intense lobbying, a contentious floor vote on Leahy's amendment still was possible.

Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said "if this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I'm done."

Now, by extending equal treatment under U.S. immigration law to gay citizens with foreign spouses, the high court has cleared the political hurdle. House Republicans promise to be less compliant.

Derek P. Jensen