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Deportation could split up lesbian Vt. couple

Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda were looking forward to the New Year's Eve family concert at the Baptist Church, the town fireworks on the pond and then a night at home to celebrate the arrival of 2012.

But, the Associated Press reports, federal immigration authorities have told Ueda she needs to leave the United States for her native Japan by Dec. 31, a move that would split up a couple who have been together more than a decade and were married under Vermont law in April.

Their case illuminates the difficulties that binational gay couples face at a time when the Obama administration has pledged not to uphold federal marriage law in courts but the rest of the executive branch – including immigration authorities – still follows the letter of the law.

Federal immigration authorities demand extensive documentation showing that a binational couple claiming to be married really are: witness statements, property records, utility and other household bills showing both names and the like often are required. Herbert said she and Ueda submitted 600 pages of such evidence with their application.

Herbert, a 51-year-old home care provider, and Ueda, a 56-year-old graphic designer, live in the southern Vermont town of Dummerston and got letters Dec. 1 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, telling them that Ueda had to leave the country within 30 days. Ueda's student visa expired in July.

They had applied for "relative alien" status on the basis that she was the spouse of a U.S. citizen, but the federal agency denied that petition.

The letter to Herbert, who had applied to be Ueda's sponsor, said that under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law saying the government would not recognize same-sex marriages, they couldn't be considered spouses. DOMA defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

Source: AP

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