Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Second Advisor

Dawn Baunach

Third Advisor

Elisabeth Burgess


For 17 years, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Public Law 104-199, 110 U.S. Statutes at Large 2419 (1996), prevented same-sex couples from enjoying the same federal benefits granted to heteronormative married couples. Among these benefits, the inability to provide immigration sponsorship for foreign-born spouses was particularly burdensome for bi-national same-sex couples. In this dissertation, marriage inequality serves as the backdrop for an investigation of bi-national same-sex couples’ dilemmas, strategies, and ultimate outcomes during and after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 3 of DOMA. With the use of semi-structured interviews, I collected data from 30 individuals in bi-national same-sex relationships who were together before and after the United States v. Windsor decision. My intent is to both document their experiences and to advance scholarship in the areas of social inequality and social change.