The Department of Homeland Security made it clear to Democratic lawmakers this week that a same-sex relationship qualifies as a reason to delay deporting an illegal immigrant living in the U.S. 

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano distributed a letter late Wednesday evening outlining the new position. She clarified that same sex relationships qualify under a June 2011 order from the President stating "ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships," ie a gay illegal immigrant in a relationship with a gay American, should be considered when determining whether someone should be deported. Human rights groups were happy with the decision. "This is the first time the government has recognized in writing that the relationship between a gay American and a gay immigrant is a real and positive factor in an immigration case," Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, said.

It does not give a gay immigrant the ability to apply for a permanent resident visa because of a same-sex marriage. With DOMA on its way to the Supreme Court, it's a small but significant step in the slow march towards full gay rights in the U.S. Don't think that's lost on Napolitano. "We need to ... relegate DOMA to the dustbin of history," she said, when announcing the new initiative.