Image Source: cnn.com
Image Source: cnn.com

The first legal gay marriage in the world took place in Amsterdam on April 1, 2001, making the Netherlands the first country to recognize same-sex marriage.  This was followed by Belgium, Spain and Canada.  To date, there are 17 countries (including UK and USA) that recognize gay marriages and the number is growing. Asian countries have not joined the bandwagon.

Interestingly, in the United States, Hawaii was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.  In a 1993 case, a court ruled that the restriction on same-sex marriage constituted sex discrimination (Boehr v Lewin 852 P2nd 44 {Haw. 1993}).

Later, a Honolulu judge struck down a state law permitting only opposite-sex couples to marry (Baehr v. Miike, 910 P.2d 112 [1996]).   The Hawaiian court’s pioneering move elicited a surprising response.  Various states (including Hawaii!)  reacted warily and took a firm stand against same-sex marriage, declaring in their respective constitutions in explicit terms that marriage is defined as the union between a “man and a woman.” This was intended to dispel any statutory confusion in the future.

By the end of 2000, only heterosexual unions were allowed in almost 40 states. Fortunately for same sex-couples, a reversal of the trend  gained momentum afterwards.

The State of Vermont approved legislation allowing same-sex marriages. Massachusetts followed.  At present, such unions are legal in  California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

 In June 2013, the landmark decision in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013) decreed that marriage should not be confined to a relationship or union between a man and a woman, but must cover as well same-sex or homosexual couples.

This is the basis of the new immigration rule recognizing same-sex marriages. This rule allows the filing of petitions for spousal or fiancé/e visas.  As discussed in Part I of this article, for countries like the Philippines where gay marriage is not legal, a fiancé/e visa may be the only way for gay couples to make their dream of living together come true.

 As a couple applying for a fiancé/e visa,  extraordinary arrangements  must be  seriously considered and decided before departing for the United States where they can get married (in the states mentioned earlier). These arrangements include the proximity of that state to their place of residence, the residency requirement of the state they have chosen.

After entry of the alien fiancé/e into the country, that wedding plan cannot be subject to spur-of-the moment changes.  This is not an ordinary and usual “course of events” which heterosexual couples would encounter.  The consular officers at the respective US embassies will be mindful of this issue and will test if indeed, the same-sex couple is for real and sincere about tying the knot in the US within 90 days from entry.

They need evidence, proof, details. A less strenuous but possibly expensive option is to get married in a country where gay marriage is valid and recognized, and then file a spousal petition for your gay spouse. If both partners are already in that “enlightened country,” then getting married can just be routine, the best scenario.

Is the 21st century global culture tolerant and accepting of alternative family structures?  How many people have the courage to come out in the open and declare they are same sex fiancé/e of U.S. citizens?

In some parts of the world such a declaration can result in religious condemnation, social ostracism or persecution. Even with laws against so called “hate crimes,”   the use and popularity of the same sex and fiancé/e visas remain to be seen.

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