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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

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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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The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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