University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Blesch v. Holder IM-NY-0047
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-01578 ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Immigration
Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Case Summary
This is a constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 U.S.C. § 7, as it applies to the immigration rights of lesbian and gay bi-national couples. It was filed on April 2, 2012, by five such couples, each lawfully married in South Africa, Vermont, New York, or ... read more >
This is a constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 1 U.S.C. § 7, as it applies to the immigration rights of lesbian and gay bi-national couples. It was filed on April 2, 2012, by five such couples, each lawfully married in South Africa, Vermont, New York, or Connecticut, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Represented by Immigration Equality and private pro bono counsel, plaintiffs sued the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS -- a component agency of DHS), seeking to compel recognition of their same-sex marriages and non-discriminatory adjudication of marriage-based immigrant benefits.

Under DOMA, marriage "means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." 1 U.S.C. § 7. In each of the plaintiff couples, one spouse is American and the other foreign; if the marriage were not same-sex, the American spouse could petition for an immigrant visa for the foreign spouse and place the foreign spouse on the path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship. However, following DOMA's direction, USCIS has denied plaintiffs those immigration benefits. Plaintiffs argue that this denial is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, constituting discrimination on account of both sexual orientation and sex.

The Obama administration has announced that in its view, DOMA is unconstitutional and has therefore declined to defend it in court (although the federal government continues to enforce the statute). Accordingly, a "Bipartizan Legal Advisory Group" (BLAG) has been appointed by the (Republican) House of Representatives to appear in cases like this one and defend the constitutionality of DOMA. BLAG filed papers in this case on May 31, 2012.

On July 25, 2012, the district court (Judge Amon) stayed proceedings in the case--including immigration enforcement against any of the plaintiffs--pending the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Windsor v. United States, No. 12 CV 2335 (2d Cir), a case already pending on appeal similarly challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. (PB-NY-0017 in the Clearinghouse.) Since the government had declined to stay immigration enforcement, this was reported as a small victory by the plaintiffs.

On July 8, 2013, following the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor, BLAG withdrew as intevenor-defendant. On August 26, 2013, after the Plaintiffs' notice of voluntary dismissal, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice.

- 07/31/2012
Claire Lally - 02/22/2015

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Sexual orientatation
Family reunification
Visas - criteria
Causes of Action Bivens
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Five same-sex bi-national couples (one partner American, the other foreign).
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Threats to the Future of the Immigration Class Action
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy
By: Jill E. Family (Widener University School of Law)
Citation: 27 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 71 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple’s 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:12-cv-01578-CBA (E.D.N.Y.) 08/26/2013
IM-NY-0047-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 04/02/2012
IM-NY-0047-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Notice of Dismissal Without Prejudice 08/26/2013
IM-NY-0047-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Amon, Carol Bagley (E.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fink, Julie E. (New York)
Neilson, Victoria (New York)
IM-NY-0047-0001 | IM-NY-0047-0002 | IM-NY-0047-9000
Plummer, Thomas R. (New York)
IM-NY-0047-0001 | IM-NY-0047-0002 | IM-NY-0047-9000
Stone, Eric Alan (New York)
IM-NY-0047-0001 | IM-NY-0047-0002 | IM-NY-0047-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bartolomucci, H. Christopher (District of Columbia)
Belsan, Timothy Michael (District of Columbia)
Carlson, Jesi J. (District of Columbia)
Dunn, Scott (New York)
Goldsmith, Aaron S. (District of Columbia)
Kircher, Kerry W. (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers None on record

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