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Even though two persons contract a marriage valid under state law and are recognized as spouses by that state, they are not necessarily spouses for purposes of § 201(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 8 U.S.C.S. § 1151(b).
Following the expiration of Sullivan's visitor's visa, Adams and Sullivan obtained a marriage license from the county clerk in Boulder, Colorado, and were "married" by a minister. Adams then petitioned the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for classification of Sullivan as an immediate relative of an American citizen, based upon Sullivan's alleged status as Adams's spouse. The petition was denied, and the denial was affirmed on appeal by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Adams and Sullivan then filed an action in district court challenging this final administrative decision on both statutory and constitutional grounds. The parties agreed that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the only issues presented were issues of law. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court entered judgment for the INS. This appeal followed.
Must a citizen's spouse within the meaning of § 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 8 U.S.C.S. § 1151(b) be an individual of the opposite sex?
The court found that a two-step analysis was necessary to determine if appellants' marriage would be recognized for immigration purposes. The first step asked whether the marriage was valid under state law, and, second, whether that marriage qualified under § 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 8 U.S.C.S. § 1151(b). The court, deciding the case solely upon construction of this section, found that Congress intended that only partners in heterosexual marriages were to be considered spouses under § 201. Because Congress had a rational basis for its denial to spouses of homosexual marriages the preferences accorded to spouses of heterosexual marriages, the act was not unconstitutional.