WASHINGTON — A married gay couple in Florida received notice on Friday afternoon that they no longer face being separated because one of them is not a U.S. citizen. Julian Marsh and Traian Povov's green card approval is the first such approval ever has been granted in the United States.
The DOMA Project, whose lawyers represent the couple, announced the news Saturday morning, calling it "the first time in U.S. history a marriage-based green card petition filed by a gay couple has been approved."
"As a gay immigrant and as an immigration attorney and gay rights activist who has worked on this issue for 20 years, this is a moment of particular personal satisfaction, Lavi Soloway, the couple's lawyer and a founder of The DOMA Project, told BuzzFeed on Saturday.
Marsh — a popular DJ in the gay dance scene — and Popov, who live in Fort Lauderdale, were married in New York in October 2012 because Florida has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. Marsh had applied for a green card for Popov, who is from Bulgaria, before the Supreme Court had ruled on whether the Defense of Marriage Act's ban on the federal government recognizing gay couples' marriages was constitutional.
Although such green card petitions had previously been denied, the Obama administration had been avoiding ruling on such requests as the challenges to section 3 of DOMA made their way through the courts.
But, following Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling striking down section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional, The DOMA Project announced Saturday that Marsh's green card petition for his husband was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) late Friday afternoon.
"The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration's commitment to recognizing same-sex couples' marriages after the Supreme Court ruling is now a reality on the ground. We expect additional approvals of green card applications and petitions in the coming days," Soloway said.
Marsh and Popov met March 5, 2011, at a friend's party. Within a week, they had a second run-in at another friend's house and began dating shortly thereafter. "I met him, I fell in love, and that was it," Marsh said in a statement.
"It is symbolically very important that this first petition that was approved comes for a couple that lives in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying. This shows the effect of the DOMA ruling for immigration purposes will extend to couples, no matter where they live, so long as they have a valid marriage license," Soloway said.