Today at the U.S. Embassy in London, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. will immediately begin treating visa applications from same-sex couples in the same manner as those from heterosexual couples.
I’m very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses. And here is exactly what this rule means: If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.
Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate. Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014.
And as you know, more than two years ago, President Obama instructed our Department of Justice to stop enforcing DOMA. Then just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States declared DOMA unconstitutional. Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I’m proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States.
I am proud to say that I voted against DOMA, one of 14 votes against it and the only person running for election that year who voted against it, and it’s one of the better votes that I’ve cast. It was the right vote then, it’s the right vote today. And I’m pleased to make this announcement today because this is one of those moments where policy and values join together. And I think those of you in the consular division, more than me or more than any of us back at the State Department on a daily basis, are going to bet you’d be the people who get to make this a reality for people.
So those of you working today in the consular section will make history when you issue some of the first visas to same-sex couples, and you will be some of the first faces to welcome them to the United States in an always – a country that obviously is always trying to tweak and improve and do better by the values around which we were founded. You share in the great responsibility of making our country live its values, and you make possible the journey of those who want to visit our country for that reason and many more.