A crowd of young immigrant students wearing shirts that read “I Am Undocumented” quickly rose from the pews of the church and started snapping pictures as the back doors opened to reveal two women walking down the aisle, about to be wed.
The 300 mostly undocumented students, united in their membership in the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, were supporting the symbolic marriage of Lindsay Schubiner and Prerna Lal. Lal is a native of Fiji who could now, after 14 years of waiting, apply for a green card as the spouse of a citizen.
The students themselves, hailing from states all across the country, had arrived in the Capitol for the annual “National DREAM Graduation and Wedding” ceremony, which took place Tuesday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation just one block from the Capitol.
The event combined two ceremonies: a mock-graduation of undocumented youth meant to highlight the need for education provisions in immigration reform and the symbolic wedding between the bi-national lesbian couple.
“This wedding is something that comes from keeping our family together,” Lal said. “Thanks to the Supreme Court, we can go back to the court in October and get a green card for me.”
Lal can now apply for a green card after the Supreme Court struck down provisions in the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting the issuance of green cards to legally married same-sex couples.
Lal moved to the United States with her parents when she was 14 years old and just graduated with her law degree from George Washington University. After this symbolic ceremony, she will legally marry Schubiner, who works on Capitol Hill, in a private ceremony in August.
“It’s really exciting to say to people ‘Yes, [gay couples] can get a green card,’” said Rachel Tevin, executive director for the nonprofit Immigration Equality. “Yes, it’s worth it for you to hire a lawyer. For many people, it wasn’t worth it before, because there just wasn’t any hope.”
The young undocumented students, many of whom spoke at the mock-graduation about their struggles with illegal status, will rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday as House leadership meets to discuss the future of pending immigration reform.
The ceremony was organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, DreamACTivist.org, and the nonprofit organization Immigration Equality.
Speaking at the event, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said, “Whether you have the paperwork or not, whether you’re straight or gay or bisexual, whatever your national origin or religion, our country draws its strength from our diversity.”