Takako Ueda and Frances Herbert were married in Vermont last year. But Ueda, who is from Japan and no longer has a student VISA, was still at risk of being deported. Because the Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as one man and one woman, the benefits-- like a green card-- granted to noncitizen spouses did not extend to Ueda. The couple is challenging the law in federal court. Tuesday, they found out that while the suit moves forward, Ueda will not be kicked out of the country.
"We are just so grateful that we have all the support and I am just so overwhelmed. Finally, I have legal documents," Ueda said.
The deferred action, as it is called, means for the next two years Ueda is legally allowed to be in this country even though she is technically an illegal immigrant.
"It's a reprieve," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont. "So while we are waiting, they are legally allowed to be here together and not live with this incredible apprehension about whether two people who have been together, who love each other are going to be separated."
But for these women who have known each other for 30 years, the reprieve is only one step in the process.
"We know for two years that we won't be separated and certainly the end goal is that Takako gets a green card and has permanent residency in the United States," Frances Herbert said.
In order for that to happen, DOMA needs to be overturned by Congress or declared unconstitutional by the courts.
"My hope is that DOMA is overthrown, we should have never passed it," Welch said. "But the federal government, in this case very clearly, defers to the state decision on what defines marriage."
And others, like those who are part of an LGBT advocacy group at Dartmouth College, want to see DOMA disappear as well.
"I think it doesn't make sense to people that this couple can be legally married in Vermont and being perceived and accepted by their neighbors and their community as a married couple, but then not enjoy the federal privileges of being a married couple," said Anna Roth, a peer mentor.
While the couple may have a lot of support in our region, same-sex marriage remains controversial and there continues to be a lot of opposition. In fact, 31 states have passed amendments banning it.
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