Just two days after the US Supreme Court’s historic decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the first bi-national married gay couple received approval for a green card petition. Last Friday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agreed to allow Julian Marsh to sponsor his Bulgarian husband, Traian Popov, for US residency.
Marsh and Popov are participants in the DOMA Project, an immigration advocacy and legal assistance program for gay and lesbian bi-national couples founded by Jewish attorney Lavi Soloway and his law partner Noemi Masliah. With Soloway’s help, Marsh, a US citizen, filed a marriage-based residency petition on behalf of Popov last February.
Soloway had predicted things would change quickly for his clients after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples for all purposes, including immigration benefits, as a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
“I expect an immediate effect,” he told The Times of Israel immediately after the decision was announced.
Popov has been in the US as a student since 1998, and is currently pursuing a PhD in conflicts analysis and resolution. Marsh is a DJ and music producer. They met through friends in March 2011 and fell in love, and then married in October 2012. They wed in Brooklyn, New York, because there is a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in their home state of Florida.
Marco Rubio, US Senator from Florida and a leading contender for the Republican candidacy for the 2016 Presidential race, said he believes the Supreme Court made “a serious mistake” in striking down DOMA. “I recognize that the definition of marriage and the legal status of same-sex relationships is a deeply personal and emotional issue for Americans of a variety of viewpoints. These types of disagreements should be settled through the democratic process, as the Founders intended, not through litigation and court pronouncements,” he said in an official statement.
“The new normal has arrived,” Soloway said of the approval of Marsh’s petition. It took the usual length of time for such a petition to be processed, and when the government saw that the couple’s paperwork was in order, there was no further delay. “The fact that this was a marriage between two men was of no consequence.”
“What was so gratifying is that the government was ready to act according to this new reality. There was nothing unusual in the way this was processed,” Soloway remarked. “It was dull and regular, with no special post script or explanation about this being a gay couple in the approval email I received.”
For Soloway, the fact that Marsh and Popov live in Florida is significant. “It shows that the Supreme Court’s decision applies to all LGBT Americans, regardless of state law,” he said.
“The Obama Administration is using its power to show that this is the reality on the ground, and that where you live doesn’t matter.”