July 1, 2013 -- A same-sex married couple in Florida got word that their green card request had been approved on Friday evening. They may be the first gay couple in U.S. history to receive such news.
Married last year in New York, Traian Popov, 41, a Bulgarian immigrant and Julian Marsh, 55, received approval for his green card request just two days after Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The federal law banned gay marriage as well as the option for gay binational couples to sponsor a spouse on a visa. The couple was out to dinner celebrating Marsh's 55th birthday when they heard the news.
"It was just kind of a shock, like winning the lottery," Marsh told The New York Times. "The amazing overwhelming fact is that the government said yes, and my husband and I can live in the country we chose and we love and want to stay in."
Marsh is a music producer and Popov is pursuing a PhD in Conflicts Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Now that he will be able to live and work legally in the U.S., Popov told the Times that he will likely finish his education quickly so that he can secure a job.
Popov and Marsh's green card petition was one of almost 100 applications filed by the DOMA Project, led by attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masilah. For many binational same-sex couples, visa complications mean a series of difficult decisions. Before DOMA was overturned, some immigrant partners attempted to find work visas, some Americans left the country to be with their significant other abroad, and still others broke immigration laws to stay, risking deportation.
The Florida couple is just one of an estimated 28,500 binational same sex couples in the United States who were restricted from visa categories by DOMA.
Soloway, the couples' attorney, said he was surprised the decision came so quickly and that he began to weep when he received the news. The fact that the couple lives in Florida, a state that doesn't recognize gay marriages, is important, Soloway noted.
"This historic first green card approval confirms that for immigration purposes the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA will extend equal recognition to same-sex couples in all 50 states," he said. "As long as they have a valid marriage."