July 1, 2013 at 7:46 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Gay bi-national couple makes post-DOMA history
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.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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