Two Long Island men are among five same-sex couples from the Northeast who filed a legal challenge yesterday against a federal law that does not recognize their marriages.
The case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York joins other cases against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a disputed 1996 law also known as DOMA that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. The law effectively invalidates the immigration petitions of same-sex couples, the lawsuit claims.
In much simpler terms, though, Orient residents Edwin Blesch and Tim Smulian -- who married in 2007 in Smulian's home country of South Africa -- just want to be able to share their lives together in their Long Island home.
"It's one of the last civil rights issues that have to be addressed," said Blesch, 71, who's retired from more than 30 years teaching English and film studies at community colleges in Nassau and Suffolk. "We would like to see our marriage accepted just like other marriages."
While Smulian won an immigration reprieve to stay in the United States this year, the couple was notified last month that Blesch's petition for Smulian's permanent residency was denied under DOMA because his spouse "is not a person of the opposite sex."
The 25-page complaint filed on behalf of the couples by Immigration Equality, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., argues that the current law is unconstitutional in its refusal of "equal protection" rights and amounts to "hateful, harmful, and unlawful discrimination" of same-sex couples.
"There's nothing more important to a family than being able to live in the same house, in the same country, and if the person you love is being split from you, that is just one of the cruelest consequences of an unjust law," said Rachel B. Tiven, Immigration Equality's director.
The office of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did not respond to a request for comment.
Tiven said the lawsuit seeks to ensure that same-sex couples of mixed immigration statuses are not left out of the discussion about DOMA's constitutionality.