Eight Years After First Meeting, Sean and Steven Marry and File Green Card Petition, Joining Fight Against DOMA

I am no stranger to injustice. I am black, gay, I came of age at a time when de-segregation had been fought for, and though not complete, had started changing society. Living through this upheaval and becoming well-adjusted as a double minority is not the sum total of my experience.  Coming to terms with being black and gay, I found myself in my fifth decade of life contending with a new identity as half of a binational gay couple.

This story about the newest realization and hurdle that life has thrown at me, and how my husband and I have chosen to fight back.  After a lifetime of learned self-acceptance and personal growth, I have come to find that my smooth coasting through middle age has hit a bump that has got me more than scratching my head.

My name is Sean Brooks. I am 44-years old and I live in New York with my wonderful husband, Steven. I am a musician and a DJ.  While I’m an American citizen, Steven came to the United States in the 1990s when his whole family moved here from Colombia. Our romance has been a whirlwind. I was never one to be in long-term relationships – much less married – but meeting Steven changed all that.

We met online in 2003, becoming friends at first, and started dating some months later.  By 2004 we were serious – were supportive of one another, it was all exciting, I was in love.  We moved in together in 2006, two years into our relationship, something that would have struck me as crazy (too soon!) before it actually happened. But being with Steven has been the most fulfilling and enriching experience of my life.  Every day we continue to live and grow into something more and more wonderful.  We knew we wanted to spend our lives together, though it was a gradual process of understanding how we would do that given the circumstances.

We were married at City Hall shortly after New York legalized same-sex marriage – about twenty of our friends and family were in attendance. Steven was so afraid of being open about our relationship (of being openly gay at all really) that when we started dating he wouldn’t even hold hands with me at a gay bar.  It was amazing to me that we were able to declare our love to one another with his twin brother at our wedding.  He had only come out to his brother and his mother a few months before our wedding. I am now a happily, legally married, gay man in the state of New York.

And this is where the problems start: Now that I am legally married by the state of New York, I started to wonder – for the first time – what does it mean, legally, for us to be married. I had never thought about the “benefits” of being married as relating to me, since I always knew that same-sex marriage was not an option until recently.  As I looked over a list of state vs. federal benefits, something stuck me as funny. Not funny – haha.  But funny in that – bad taste in your mouth – kind of way.  From what I gathered, as long as we lived (and died) in New York, he (or I) could have divorce rights, inheritance rights, and make medical decisions.

But none of that is as important to me as the right of my spouse to immigrate; and as of this writing our marriage means nothing on the federal level.  This got me thinking.  I cannot petition for Steven to have a green card like any other American can do in my situation, so what good is it to know that we are protected by state laws regarding medical decisions and inheritance rights? It makes a mockery of the victory of marriage equality to know that the most powerful government in this country, the federal government in Washington D.C., refuses to recognize our marriage because of the Defense of Marriage Act. They would just as soon deport Steven even though we have been together as a couple for seven years and we are legally married.

It seems to me that I have spent my whole life trying to not be a second-class citizen, but that effort has been quietly and insidiously trumped by becoming an “other-class citizen.”  While I haven’t felt “second-class” for decades (thanks Europe for opening my eyes that the world is big), but I have come to the unfortunate realization, once again, that I am still not a first-class citizen. I am not equal to all other Americans for the simple reason that I am gay. If I were, I wouldn’t have to type this. My legal husband would be applying for a green card just as if he were a she. Instead, I get to be reduced to the other-class: he could be taken from me and from our home by my own government. We are legally married, but he’s not able to immigrate. We live in a legal limbo. And why? No one can justify the way DOMA has created this insanely cruel reality for couples like us.

As a black, gay American married to man who is a citizen of Colombia I feel we have no choice but to fight for our rights. We live in historic times that present an important opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. Our President has rejected discrimination against gay couples, and refuses to defend DOMA.  He is also a black man whose parents were not only an inter-racial couple, but also a binational couple, something that is not always noticed.  If there was ever a time to persuade Americans how important it is to protect all LGBT families, including married gay binational couples, surely this is the time.

I have filed a green card petition for Steven and I will fight for my right as an American citizen to have it approved.


  • Marie

    As a black lesbian in a binational relationship I have to say than Im very proud of you!

    December 3, 2011
  • Lilly

    :’) You are extremely brave to become the latest face of this ridiculous and unjust law. My heart goes out to you. I am American and my wife is Brazilian/Argentinian-born in Mexico. Due to DOMA, we are extremely impoverished and living in our car. I wish I could fight with you but I don’t have the finances to follow her if she were deported and I would die if we had to be separated. We are both keeping you on our minds and praying that you have favor with government officials. The discrimination has to end. Thank you so much for stepping forward.

    December 3, 2011
  • [...] Brooks, a New York musician, has been legally married to his Colombian husband, Steven, ever since New York State legalized gay marriage in 2011. But like about 28,500 other [...]

    June 27, 2013
  • [...] Sean Brooks, a 46-year-old musician and DJ, married his Colombian husband Steven in New York, where such unions have been legal since June 2011. But under DOMA, which federally codified marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the couple’s marriage was not legitimate and Steven’s green card petition was cancelled. [...]

    June 27, 2013
  • [...] Brooks, a New York musician, has been legally married to his Colombian husband, Steven, ever since New York State legalized gay marriage in 2011. But like about 28,500 other [...]

    June 28, 2013

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.