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Matter of Zeleniak

Board of Immigration Appeals
26 I. & N. Dec. 158 (2013)


In 2010, Zeleniak (plaintiff), a United States citizen, filed a petition for resident status on behalf of a beneficiary, his spouse. Zeleniak and his spouse are both male, and had a valid marriage under the laws of Vermont. The Benefits Center Director denied the petition, and the petitioner appealed the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals. In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the record to the Director in order to address two issues: whether the spouses’ marriage was valid under Vermont state law, and whether the marriage qualified as such under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Director again denied the petition, and Zeleniak again appealed. The Director declined to consider whether the beneficiary qualified as a spouse absent the requirements of the controlling federal statute, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 of the DOMA set forth the meaning of the word “marriage” to mean the legal union of one man and one woman, and the word “spouse” to mean only a person of the opposite sex. While the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided the case United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), which held § 3 of the DOMA unconstitutional as a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Board then reconsidered the petition in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Neal, Ch.)

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