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Justice Department delays gay deportations

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has asked an immigration panel to reconsider the case of a gay man cleared for deportation. Holder’s request stalled the expulsion of Irishman Paul Wilson Dorman, who is in a civil union with a U.S. citizen.

The decision also put the brakes on the deportation of a Venezuelan man who married a U.S. man in Connecticut.

Dorman and John Paul Frederick were joined in a civil union in New Jersey in 2009. The two became a couple in 1997.

Had the 50-year-old Dorman married a female U.S. citizen, he would be eligible to remain in the country. However, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals denied Dorman’s application for residency and ruled for his deportation citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The law also prohibits federal recognition of same-sex relationships.

Holder took the rare action of vacating that decision and asking the board to review the case. This could lead to a reversal of the decision, and, in the short-term, delays Dorman’s deportation.

Holder asked the panel to consider whether Dorman would be considered the spouse of a U.S. citizen if not for DOMA, which a conservative Congress enacted in 1996. In February, the attorney general announced that the Justice Department would cease defending the DOMA provision withholding federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages.

Specifically Holder directed the board to answer:

  • Whether Dorman’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law.
  • Whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, Dorman’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • What, if any, impact the timing of Dorman’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief.

The second case involves Henry Velandia of Venezuela and Josh Vandiver of Colorado, who married in Connecticut in 2010.

On May 6, an immigration judge in New Jersey put Velandia’s deportation on hold until December to await a final ruling in the Dorman case.

Activists said Holder’s decision may have resulted from pressure by a coalition of lawmakers led by John Kerry and Patrick Leahy in the Senate and Zoe Lofgren in the House.

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