ORR Repatriation Program Compliance with the Windsor and Obergefell Decisions

Policy Letter 16-06

Publication Date: June 10, 2016

June 10, 2016

The ORR Repatriation Program recognizes same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages when determining eligibility for services, in compliance with the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ________ (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. _____ (2015). In Windsor the Court held unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages. HHS then implemented a post-Windsor policy of treating same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages to the greatest extent reasonably possible. In Obergefell, the Court held unconstitutional state-level bans on same-sex marriage. This decision requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

In accordance with these decisions, repatriation services provided through agreements with the states, U.S. territories, grantees and other service providers must be provided to all spouses in same-sex marriages who have entered into a valid marriage in any jurisdiction, including a foreign jurisdiction provided that the marriage would be recognized in at least one state, and are otherwise eligible for repatriation services. In the ORR Repatriation Program, the spouses in same-sex marriages must be recognized and treated on the same terms as spouses in opposite-sex marriages. These principles also apply when determining ORR Repatriation Program eligibility of dependents that are related to a U.S. citizen through a legally valid same-sex marriage, including minor children and incapacitated adults.

Stakeholders and service providers should direct to the ORR Repatriation Program any questions about the contents of this Letter.

Robert Carey, Director
Office of Refugee Resettlement

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