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Immigration Office Back to Denying Same-Sex Couple Visas After Legal Review

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Shown here is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Phoenix, Ariz.AP

WASHINGTON -- After a brief reprieve, U.S. immigration authorities are once again denying applications for immigration benefits for same sex couples following a legal review. 

Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Services agency, said Wednesday that a review by lawyers from the Department of Homeland Security, it was concluded that a law prohibiting the government from recognizing same sex marriages must be followed, despite the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the law in court. 

The law, the Defense of Marriage Act, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. 

Earlier this week, USCIS announced that applications from foreigners married to a U.S. citizen of the same sex would be held in "abeyance" while the legal review proceeded. Bentley said Tuesday that the temporary hold on application decisions was not a change in policy. 

Bob Deasy, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the latest ruling is a "disappointment." 

"The administration has the authority to put these cases on hold" while the fate of the marriage law is decided in court, he said. 

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the government would no longer defend the DOMA law, which gay rights activists have said is discriminatory. 

Holder's announcement appears to have already had an impact on at least one immigration case.
Earlier this month a New York-based immigration judge decided to postpone a deportation order against an Argentine lesbian married to a U.S. citizen. 

Following the ruling to adjourn the case until December, Monica Alcota's lawyer, Noemi Masliah, praised the judge's decision. 

"The right thing to do, and this judge did do the right thing, is to adjourn this case and see what happens down the road," Masliah said. "Given that the law is so up in the air ... it's hard to enforce at this point in a negative way." 

Wednesday's announcement did not have any immediate impact on Alcota's case.