How Overturning DOMA Changes the Immigration Debate

Same-sex couples can sponsor spouses for green cards.

Supporters Brian Sprague, left, and Charlie Ferrusi hold a Human Rights flag outside U.S. Supreme Court building on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"The repeal of DOMA means I don't have to be torn apart from the only family I have left," one gay marriage supporter said.

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Just days before the Senate will vote on comprehensive immigration reform, the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act changes everything.

The court decision requires the federal government to recognize marriages in states that allow the unions and that means also giving those couples the rights endowed to straight married couples.

One of those federal rights is the privilege to sponsor a spouse for a green card.

For decades, straight couples were able to sponsor their spouse for a green card to keep them in the U.S., but gay couples were often torn apart because the law did not apply to them.

[READ: LGBT Community Sees Progress in Immigration Reform Despite Setbacks]

"At long last, we can now tell our families that yes, they are eligible to apply for green cards," Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said in a statement. "Many of our families have waited years, and in some cases decades, for the green card they need to keep their families together. Couples forced into exile will be coming home soon. Americans separated from their spouses are now able to prepare for their reunion. Today's ruling is literally a life-changing one for those who have suffered under DOMA and our discriminatory immigration laws."

Gay couples waiting outside the Supreme Court Wednesday morning recognized the court's decision would have wide implications for same-sex, binational couples.

One newlywed couple Christine Dolendo, who is from the Philippines, and her wife Linda Monahan, said the decision will change their life in a big way.

"The repeal of DOMA means I don't have to be torn apart from the only family I have left," Dolendo says.

The decision also changes the immigration debate in a big way.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on Same-Sex Marriage]

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., had drafted an amendment for the immigration bill that would have given gay couples a chance to sponsor their spouse for a green card, but introducing the amendment could have killed the GOP support for the bill that the "gang of eight" had carefully crafted.

When the immigration overhaul was poised for a final vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy had held his amendment because of similar concerns, but had hinted he would reintroduce the amendment on the floor if the Supreme Court did not strike down DOMA.

"The Court did what Congress would not, and recognized that all loving couples are the same under the Constitution," Tiven said.

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