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Gay bi-national couple makes post-DOMA history

Marsh and Popov first gay couple to win approval for marriage-based green card application



DOMA, Green Card, Marriage, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade
DOMA, Green Card, Marriage, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade

The first gay couple to receive an approval for a green card petition, Julian Marsh (right) and Traian Povov. (Photo courtesy The DOMA Project)

For Julian Marsh, being the first U.S. citizen to have a marriage-based green-card application approved for a same-sex spouse is “beyond anything we could ever imagine.”

Marsh and his spouse, Traian Popov, talked about the elation they felt upon learning their I-130 application was accepted on Friday — just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional — in an interview Sunday with the Washington Blade.

“I call that like winning a lottery; it’s like the luck of the draw,” Marsh said. “I’m sure there were other [applications] there that people could have picked up and processed, but, for whatever reason, they picked up ours. I feel real happy they did.”

The DOMA Project, which handled the filing for the Fort Lauderdale couple, is claiming them as the first gay couple to have their marriage-based green card application in the aftermath of the end of DOMA, which prohibited the federal recognition of same-sex couples.

Before the Supreme Court ruled last week the anti-gay law was unconstitutional, DOMA was the sole reason cited by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services for denying applications submitted by numerous legally married gay couples.

Marsh, an internationally acclaimed DJ, said the green-card approval represents the extent to which times have changed for LGBT people over decades leading to the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA.

“It has invigorated us, shows us that love can win and we can push boundaries,” Marsh said. “I go back to the days when if you went into a bar, you’d probably have eggs thrown at you. You’d have to go through the back door. … I remember back in the 1970s, that’s where I kind of started, life was not like this at all.”

Popov, a Bulgarian national and doctorate student pursuing a degree in conflict analysis and resolution, said he’s “ecstatic” not just for himself, but the estimated 28,500 gay bi-national couples.

“Because of what we have now, U.S. spouses can petition and eventually get a green card for them if they’re willing to stay in the United States, which is a right that every U.S. citizen should have,” Popov said.

The couple doesn’t have yet have a green card; that process takes about six to nine months after the application is approved.

After meeting in 2011, the couple married in Brooklyn in 2012 and filed for the green card in February with no intention of being the first gay couple to win approval. Marsh and Popov learned via email on June 28 their application was approved, which, coincidentally, was Marsh’s birthday.

USCIS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment over the weekend about the approval or to confirm whether the agency was accepting I-130 green card applications from married bi-national same-sex couples.

Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project and a gay immigration attorney who handled the couple’s case, said in a statement the approval represents the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing married same-sex couples equally under the law in the aftermath of DOMA.

“This historic first green-card approval confirms that for immigration purposes the Supreme Court ruling striking DOMA will extend recognition to same-sex couples in all 50 states, as long as they have a valid marriage,” Soloway said.

What’s next for the couple? They say they want Florida to enact a change in law that would enable the state to recognize their union. The Sunshine State has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and marriage-like unions.

“The least we would want right now is Florida to recognize same-sex marriages within the state — even if they don’t allow them here at least recognize them,” Marsh said. “We’re legally married in this country, and we’re legally married in New York. If a straight couple got married and moved here, they’d be legally married. We demand that same right.”

And Marsh criticized U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). In the same day last month, Rubio said he would have walked away from any immigration bill that has language that would have helped gay bi-national couples and said he opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“What we want to say to Marco Rubio is what are you hiding Marco?” Marsh said. “Why are you being so anti-gay? Look at all the other politicians who are anti-gay! Guess what they turned to be themselves? That’s what we’ve got to say to Marco Rubio: Take a look in the mirror, Marco! I’m not joking.”

Soloway drew a contrast between Rubio’s treatment of his own constituents and the Supreme Court decision bringing relief to Marsh and Popov.

“The Supreme Court ruling affirmed that committed and loving bi-national lesbian and gay couples in Florida and across the country deserve to be treated with respect and equal recognition under the law by the federal government,” Soloway said. “In start contrast to Sen. Rubio’s disparaging tone rejecting the dignity of lesbian and gay Americans, the Supreme Court ruling and the green card approval have brought justice to Julian and Traian.”

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  1. William J KovatchEsq

    July 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Exciting news. The Obama Administration moved fast on this one.

  2. Hudson Valley Chronic

    July 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Ce-le-brate good times! Woooo-hoooo! In trying to figure out how I might put in my two cents on the demise of DOMA, I think I may have inadvertently stumbled onto the perfect wedding song for a couple of love-struck dudes. It's a little rough-and-tumble, but it's got a great dance beat. You can even play it in Russia without fear of reprisal. Check it out!

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More Americans personally know someone who’s transgender, non-binary: survey

42% know a trans person, 26% know someone using gender-neutral pronouns



More Americans personally know a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

A survey found 42 percent of Americans know someone who’s transgender, who is up from 37 percent who said so in 2017. Although most Americans, 57 percent, still say they don’t know anyone who’s transgender, that’s down from 63 percent five years ago.

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans say they know someone who uses non-binary gender pronouns compared to the 18 percent in 2018 who said they knew someone uses pronouns such as “they” as opposed to “he” or “she.”

At the same time, comfort levels with using gender-neutral pronouns – as well as their opinions on whether someone’s gender can differ from the sex they were assigned at birth – has remained about the same. Half of Americans say they would be either very or somewhat comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so, compared to 48 percent who say they would not be comfortable. The numbers, according to Pew Research, are basically unchanged since 2018.

The survey found profound differences by age, party, and education in knowing a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, although in both parties growing shares of Americans report knowing a person who’s transgender.

For Americans under age 30, some 53 percent say they know a transgender person, which is up from 44 percent in 2017. In the same age group, 46 percent of younger U.S. adults know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 32 percent in 2018.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey of 10,606 U.S. adults between June 14 and June 17. The survey is weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories, according to Pew Research.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”



Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 


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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”



Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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