Daniel and Yohandel To Celebrate Their Anniversary By Filing For A Green Card and Fighting For Full Equality

This is a story about true love at first sight, a story about immigration rights, justice and of the hope that comes from fighting for freedom and full equality.

Daniel and I met last summer while he was vacationing in Miami from Monterrey, Mexico. I am a Cuban-born American citizen, who arrived in this country at the age of six.

Our magical journey started the moment Daniel walked into a local bar in Miami Beach on a quiet Tuesday night. My eyes locked with his and we couldn’t help but stare at each other. It was love at first sight. A few weeks earlier, New York’s legislature had passed its gay marriage law, and Daniel was proudly wearing an “I Love NY” t-shirt with a rainbow colored heart. The t-shirt was my ticket to walk up to Daniel and launch into some small talk. Hours later we found ourselves still engaged in conversation. I was excited to have met someone new, but I also felt the anxiety of knowing that we would probably not see each other ever again as he was returning to Mexico in a few days. My brain told me that there was no point in pursuing this further. Fortunately for me, my heart convinced me to ask Daniel out on a date, so I invited him to dinner. With butterflies in my stomach I barely slept a wink thinking about the strong connection I felt for Daniel. The next day we dined at my favorite Italian restaurant. The night was perfect, we talked about our families, values, and plans for the future. We spoke until the wee hours of the morning and by the crack of dawn we knew that our lives were going to be linked together forever. Little did we know then that a year later we would be married and fighting for our right to be together.

From that day, on we began a long distance relationship, speaking to each other every minute that we could steal away from our otherwise busy days. We stayed in touch this way, speaking every day for weeks until we both realized that we needed to see each other again. One day we came up with the idea of going on a cruise. So a few weeks after our first date, we reunited on a cruise of the Caribbean.

Our time on the cruise was spent talking about every subject under the sun, we talked about all the places we would like to visit: wine-tasting tours in Bordeaux, taking a walking tour in the north of Spain, getting to know Daniel’s home country of Mexico, and exploring the national parks of the U.S. It became apparent that we envisioned doing this together.

Shortly after our trip, we decided Daniel should return to Miami so that we could brainstorm together about our options. Since Daniel was a Mexican citizen he would need a visa that permitted him to come to the United States and work, and we soon learned that was no easy matter. Daniel came back in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I remember thanking God that night for having found the love of my life and my soul mate. This time around Daniel stayed for more than one month. At that point we were probably still a little naïve: we expected Daniel would get a job and apply for a work visa so that we could finally be together once and for all.

Despite his Bachelor Degree in International Relations and Commerce, his extensive work experience, and the business network he had developed, getting a company to petition for a work visa proved to be very difficult. We were shocked and upset that we could not find any legal means that would help us be together. Of course, an opposite sex couple in our situation would have had other options. A young couple falling in love could be brought together by a fiancé visa, something an American citizen can file for a girlfriend or boyfriend to bring that person to the United States so that they can marry and file for a green card. As a gay couple that path was not open to us. Even if we were married, our marriage would not be recognized by the federal government because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

This year, we rang in the new year together and promised each other that we would never be apart again no matter what. As I woke up on New Year’s Day, Daniel surprised me with a beautiful silver ring. He looked at me and promised to spend the rest of his life with me. We began to prepare our wedding and asked our families for their support. Although at first the idea of our marriage shocked our families, they soon came around; they now understand the importance of our union and what being married would mean to us.

Professor (Reverend) Ed Ingebretsen Officiates at the Marriage of Yohandel and Daniel

Living in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, we had to search for a state where we could marry. After weighing our options, we decided that getting married in our nation’s capital was the best choice. During this time, we learned about The DOMA Project and the work that its team was doing with gay binational couples like us. This reinforced our strong belief that we must follow the most ethical path: fighting for our rights. As an American citizen I felt so frustrated, powerless and discriminated against because I am deprived of the same rights that all other Americans enjoy, simply because I am gay. And what is the right that I most cherish? What is the right that my own government denies me? The right to be with the person I love. Having fled my native country of Cuba, where civil rights were taken away by the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, it is hard for me to accept that I am in the position of fighting for my own rights here in America.

This spring Daniel and I were back in an airport again, but this time we were euphoric; we were not going to be separated. We were going to be married. We flew from Miami to Washington, DC and had our wedding on the National Mall in front of the United States Congress. We timed our wedding so that we could be sure to marry before Daniel’s visa expired. We knew that we may not get another chance. If Daniel returned to Mexico, after having made so many lengthy visits to the United States in the preceding year, there was a very strong possibility that he would not be allowed to enter the country again. Being apart again was not an option anymore. We weren’t willing to hide, or to lie about our love or to compromise our principles. Our families, our friends and all the important people in our lives supported us. We believe that our love is equally worthy of support and celebration, regardless of what one hateful law might claim. We have decided to take a stand for equality, and hoping that our government and the laws of this country will soon catch up with us.

Standing in front of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the National Mall with the dome of Capitol Hill behind us, Daniel and I exchanged vows. Although our families could not join us on our wedding day, our hearts were filled with a sense of joy that we will never forget. It became clear at that moment that we were not only coming together in union as a couple but also marking an important time in American history. Before the ceremony, I looked up at the monument of Ulysses S. Grant and recalled his fight for civil rights.  On our wedding day we joined the great American fight for civil liberty. We knew that the road to equality was going to be a long one and we knew that what lay ahead would be very challenging but we took comfort in knowing that we were not alone in this struggle for equality and that our voices would be heard.

Just Married

Sadly, it only took a few weeks into our marriage to see firsthand the damaging consequences of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” the law that denies the existence of our marriage, but defends no one. In the midst of the excitement of being newlyweds, we received news that Daniel’s grandfather had suddenly passed away. I will never forget holding Daniel’s hand as he spoke to his grandmother and apologized for not being able to be by her side to console her. I remember the guilt in his voice as he spoke to his father and mother. My heart was broken for my husband and there was nothing I could do to make it better. He could not be in Mexico with his family only because the U.S. government refused to recognize him as my husband. How can we explain to his family in Monterrey that he cannot be there because of the “Defense of Marriage Act”? My desperation then turned to anger when I thought about how a heterosexual couple would not even have to worry about that kind of a nightmarish scenario. Though we thought we were prepared for the struggles awaiting us as a binational couple, nothing can ever prepare you when you are faced with such tragedies.

Moving forward, we continue to experience daily reminders that we are second class citizens. Because our marriage is not recognized by the federal government I can’t sponsor Daniel and he cannot obtain a work permit, a driver’s license or even medical insurance. Because of DOMA we cannot plan the future that so many married couples get to create for themselves.

At this point in time, our future is a dream that we have to fight for. Our love should not be seen as any less than my heterosexual friends’ love or than my parents’ love for each other. Our love is just as true and just as important as the love between our President and his wife. Celebrities can marry and then be divorced within weeks and no one blinks an eye. Yet because we are simply gay we are told that our love is not equal, that our love is not real, that our love is not worthy of protection.

We hope that by sharing our story, other gay and lesbian couples in the broader LGBT community will relate and feel empowered to stand united to make America better not only for us, but for generations that will follow. We hope that our children and grandchildren can live in a world free of discrimination where love is equal and not illegal — where human rights cannot be denied by a majority vote.

This summer we joined The DOMA Project to be a part of a campaign to stop deportations, separations, and exile of gay and lesbian binational couples like us. We also made the decision to file for a green card on the basis of our marriage. We will join the many other couples who have formed a national advocacy campaign for “abeyance” to ask the Obama administration to put our green card case on hold, and not to deny it. We need our case to be put on hold so that Daniel can stay and work in the United States legally. We will not allow the Obama administration to simply point to the fact that DOMA is the law of the land. We will demand to be treated as the equal persons that we are. We will demand that our love be respected and honored, just as we cherish it.

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  • Johanna Malaret

    Thank you so much for this beautiful and moving love story. As a menber of a binational couple in a very similar situation I can trully say I understand your pain, joy, anger, disappointment and the multitude of other feelings. We have to keep fighting for our rights as humans and citizens of the United States. En la lucha en California y Mexico.

    June 12, 2012
  • Gabriel Rubinson

    SHAME on the USA for still allowing DOMA. Wait? What?
    Majorities must be protective of minorities and not voting in their rights (especially ignorant people). Then they say ¨a bunch of judges¨cannot decide… Well, I am convinced that The Judicial Power has all the AUTHORITY to strike this, because that´s why they studied for and are well informed.
    Don´t steal more minutes of happiness, don´t steal more minutes of civil rights.

    June 12, 2012
  • Don George

    Bravo guys! Good luck. I predict that 2013 will be the year for all of us. DOMA has a date with the Supreme Court and any decision that does not find DOMA unconstitutional will be viewed by history in the same category as the Dred Scott decision.

    June 12, 2012
  • Roberto Arroyo

    Thank you for sharing this to the world, I will keep doing my part sharing this message with family and friends. Love, true love shouldn’t be punished by laws and make people sad. Thank you Dani and Yo, for making the difference of this world.

    June 12, 2012
  • Bryan Köhnenkampf

    I dont speak english, but I translated and that story is beautiful :’)

    hugs from Chile!

    June 12, 2012
  • Greg Walton

    Heart wrenching story, it only reminds me of what my boyfriend, a Brazilian, and I went throught but at our time there was no state in the union that allowed gay marriage. We met in London and like Yohandel and Daniel, it was love at first sight. Today we have been together for 12 years, own a house together and have a beautiful Italian Greyhound named Enzo, our son. There is no family, marriage or bond stronger than ours. I am thankful to student visa and work visas that he was able to reamin in the USA but it was not easy. We should have the same rights as our straight friends.

    June 12, 2012
  • Maria Rodriguez

    This is sooooo beautiful <3
    I am a undocumented
    And an ally for the lgbt community.
    The way this story was put together
    It connects both struggles
    In a way that makes my eyes water up
    And tears run down my face
    In a way it is a reality check for me
    Since I am heterosexual
    Many of my friends
    Have adopted the
    UndocuQueer identity
    (Undocumented and also Lgbt)
    And this paints a vivid picture of
    the struggle they must face,
    On a daily basis
    After readibg this story I am one step closer
    To understanding their struggle
    Thank you so much for sharing this'

    Amazing !!!

    Love should not be illegal and
    Love can be an act of civil disobedience

    June 12, 2012
  • Disne Stratton

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing ! Stay strong <3

    June 12, 2012
  • Diane Stratton

    Beautiful, thanks for sharing! Stay strong <3

    June 12, 2012
  • Ricardo Salvato

    I know Yohandel and Daniel from quite some time, I do not see why not to be equal as a any other marriage petition from heterosexual couples… they love and respect each other, they are very honest and hard working individuals, not understanding this or any mode of racism, for race, or sexual causes is no more than a very ignorant behavior.

    They are very brave to stand up!

    Best wishes to both.

    June 12, 2012
  • Dear Daniel & Yohandel,

    Our story is so similar to yours. My husband and I were married on September 18th in Iowa (we live in Colorado.) He is from Germany and we are in the middle trying yet another temporary measure to keep him here for another 18 months. Soon we will travel to Germany to seek approval for this temporary visa, and we risk that he will not be able to come return with me or that he could be turned away at the border. We have been living on a single salary for about a year now, since Micha cannot work legally. Micha’s grandmother died this last winter and I also had the heart-breaking experience of watching him explain to his mother that there is no way for him to get back to Germany without risking losing his legal presence here. Please keep us informed about how your application goes. Our prayers are with you as we fight this battle for our rights together. Much love and many hugs to you both,

    ~Paul & Micha

    June 13, 2012
    • Daniel

      PAUL AND MICHA,

      IM OVERWHELMED FROM READING YOUR POST. ITS AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE THERE ARE OUT THERE EXPEREINCING THIS SHAMEFUL SITUATION, SOMETIMES ONE CAN FEEL THAT WE ARE THE ONLY ONES, BUT GETTING MARRIED AND SHARING IT IT’S LIKE COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET AS A COUPLE… ITS NOT EASY OF COURSE, BECAUSE OF THE LEGAL DISCRIMINATION, BUT WHO ELSE IS GOING TO PURSUE OUR RIGHTS IF ITS NOT US????

      THANKS YOU FOR SHARING YOUR COMMENTS, WE HOPE THE BEST FOR YOU! FIND US IN FACEBOOK SO WE CAN STAY IN TOUCH….

      June 13, 2012
  • Claudia Machado

    Que bella historia! Yo espero que muy pronto que toda esta situacion se resuelva. Me parece mentira estar en el siglo 21 y todavia luchando por igualdad! Cuando yo me case con mi esposo le pude dar un estatus permanente en este pais. Que hace diferente tu caso? No entiendo y es totalmente injusto. Amor es amor.!

    June 13, 2012
  • Adam

    As a gay American, I am embarassed that I pay taxes to create laws that will be used against me and the lgbt community. In the end, the suffering party of all civil rights issues prevails. We will win this war. Thanks for your amazing story. I was enlightened on several issues.

    June 13, 2012
  • Brad M

    Congratulations to you both on your marriage! We’re all cheering for you.

    Daniel, I’m sorry to hear about losing your grandfather. I lost mine last summer when I was living thousands of miles from home because my partner and I were unable to live together in the US. DOMA truly tears our families apart. Thanks to your brave act, we’re one step closer to ending it once and for all.

    June 13, 2012
    • Daniel

      THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SUPPORT!!

      I THINK IT’S OUR CHANCE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! LET’S NOT LOSE THE OPPORTUNITY OF FIGHTING FOR WHATS -FAIR-

      I APPRECIATE ALL YOUR SUPPORT, PLEASE KEEP ON SHARING AND POSTING THIS!

      THANKS AGAIN!!!

      June 13, 2012
  • I’m writing this from England. I haven’t seen my boyfriend David in LA for nearly 4 months.

    5 years ago I travelled the world in the year before studying at university in England. I was eating at a restaurant in LA when David’s friend took my dinner plate and said I looked lonely. He sat me opposite David and just as you did, we spoke for hours, and he showed me around LA for the next 4 days before I flew to the next country of my trip, New Zealand. We spoke via email for months before I finally went back to LA to see him. Again and again.

    USCIS warned me in December that I had been to America too much and that it was time to get a visa. They told me it’s unlikely that I would be allowed entry again without one. I missed David’s birthday in April and our 5th anniversary in May. I’m now in the final stages of my visa application and hope to return to LA in July.

    June 14, 2012
  • Yohandel

    I would like to thank everyone who has read our story and has shown their support. If we stand united my husband Daniel and I and so many others will see true equality. My heart is overwhelmed by all your support. Your comments give us the strength and courage to continue to fight for our rights…

    With deepest gratitute,
    Yohandel

    June 14, 2012
  • Manuel

    hermano mil felicidades que bueno que existen hombres como ustedes que siguen marcando la diferencia en el mundo y una vez mas demostrando que cuando declaras de corazón el universo y dios te lo dan un abrazo enorme

    June 15, 2012
  • Rebeca

    I’m so happy to read this!! Well, I’m not lesbian but you guys really inspired me!!
    All we need is people to fight for equality without giving up, just like you guys!

    All this crazy people that doesn’t understand a thing about equality make me feel anger!! I don’t know if there’s anything I can do that can help even just a little but I’ve trying and I will continue doing it!!

    We all diserve to love and be loved without limits!

    I am with you!! And I’m pretty sure you will get the rights you’re fighting for!

    “WHO WOULD GIVE A LAW TO LOVERS?? LOVE IS UNTO ITSELF A HIGHER LAW”

    Thank you for this great inspiration!

    Rebeca Villalobos
    SLP, México

    June 15, 2012
  • Elena

    I’ve been sharing these as much as I can. In average they all say : what an amazing couple, congratulations to them, and I wish we could do something from here.

    Love is damn hard to find, and you guys did it! So I admire you both, and support you 100% .

    Dan, Thank you for sharing this, I know we haven’t really known eachother or talked that much, just once on skype =P , but that doesn’t mean you don’t have my support or friendship. You have it every day.

    June 16, 2012
  • Max

    My husband and I are so proud of you two courageous young men….we also live in the state of Florida and have been fighting long and hard to bring more awareness and activism to this fight for FULL FEDERAL EQUALITY….with the DOMA PROJECT and especially the incredible Lavi Saloway and company YOU ARE IN GREAT HANDS! My husband (a non US citizen) and I are celebrating our 1 year (married) and 11 years (together) anniversary TODAY! We will never give up the fight to live the life we envision! WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND WE WILL PREVAIL!!! STAY STRONG!!! Love, Max and Francisco

    June 20, 2012
    • Daniel

      Max! We would like to stay in touch with you. Find me in Facebook, Daniel Zavala.

      Its so funny that your anniversary in actually my birthday! Hope to be in touch!

      June 22, 2012
  • Ricardo

    First of all congratulations on your wedding! I guess, I mean, right now It seems to be worst to be marry with a same sex couple than single and that is something completely stupid and sad, and I have to say that I relate to you guys so much, right now I was at the point of finding all of the information that you discovered probably long time ago.
    Im at the same spot, I have Duel nationality, I’m mexican/american (I studied in Monterrey by the way) and my partner is from Argentina, and it’s so frustrating I have to say, because I already talked with so many associations and layers about all off that and I can’t believe that our best chance to be together is the “Diversity Visa Lottery” that is still a Lottery( Why we have to fight again chances to be together? ) Student Visa (coming to the US to study is not cheap at all) and Working Visa ( Like you guys, it’s really hard to get it, because the firms have to pay for that and that is no easy task)

    I was wondering if there is a way to contact you guys, I would be happy to do what I could do, and me and my boyfriend we are in kind of the same place, (he is still in his home town) but for real, let me know, I want to try to do something but the layers that I already talked to said to me that I should just wait and see what happen, that It can be legal in one week, 2, months, years, but I’m not willing to wait months, I want to do what I can to make it now, because its not fear, we are not a second-class citizens or anything like that.

    You are great for sharing your awesome story and I really hope we can make a difference.

    Thank you!

    Ricardo

    June 22, 2012
  • marcelo

    wow! congrats guys im in the same situation i live in florida too im brazilian and my husband is american and we dont have any rights here in florida and im still illegal because im gay so sad!

    July 8, 2012
  • Stuart

    I and my partner are living outside the country for the same reasons that many people in our cirumstances are. I am a South African/US dual national (lived in US since 1978 and dual national since 1997) and, like Daniel above, my partner Antonio is from Monterrey, Mexico. He worked for 4 years as a teacher in Houston, TX (with an H1B visa) and we lived together there. Once the economic crisis hit and the public school systems started laying off people, those who are not citizens and without green cards were the first to be dropped. He was among those. He was offered many advertized teaching jobs after that, all of which were yanked once it was found out that the school would need to sponsor an H1B or (heaven forbid) a green card application. This went on for almost a year. In view of the difficulties in my partner getting a job and the ever present DOMA, we decided to come to South Africa until either DOMA is dead or the employment situation has improved to the point at which employers will sponsor work visa applications for good candidates. Here in South Africa, work visas and permanent residence status are available for partners of citizens, the only condition being evidence of a “committed relationship.” Although same sex marriage is available it is not a requirement. So, here we are until…….??? For many reasons, we would like to be in the US but the relentless insecurity is more than we can handle right now……

    July 11, 2012

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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.