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Immigration, marriage laws leave binational same-sex couples in limbo

BY CURTIS TATE, McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Love may cross oceans and borders, but tens of thousands of same-sex couples in the United States live under the threat of separation because federal law prohibits immigration authorities from treating them the same as married opposite-sex couples.

And in a country where feelings run deep on immigration and same-sex marriage, the foreign-born same-sex spouses and partners of Americans live in a unique legal limbo: In the eyes of the government, they're neither married nor are they citizens.

It's an emotional and financial burden. They can't leave the country to see loved ones for fear they won't be allowed back. They might not be allowed to work or get loans to pay for college. If they're deported, they can be barred from re-entering the U.S.

"It's dehumanizing," said Frederic Deloizy, a native of France who's raising four children with his American husband in Harrisburg, Pa. "You really feel less than a person. You're certainly not a citizen. You're just here and you're not allowed to do anything else."

If a U.S. citizen marries a foreigner of the opposite sex, he or she can apply for a green card for the spouse to stay in the country and eventually become a citizen. That process isn't available to about 28,500 same-sex couples, however.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act blocks same-sex couples from receiving a variety of federal benefits that are available to opposite-sex married couples, including ones involving immigration. And it doesn't matter if they're married or in civil unions, or they live in one of a growing number of states that recognize same-sex marriages.

"The law is destroying families," said Mark Himes, who married Deloizy in 2008 in California. "We're not simply two men. We have four children who came out of the foster care system. We are hoping that marriage laws will open up in time to save us."

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