Time to Get Personal — Announcing the Launch of Our Series of Short Films, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA”

Photo by Kaliisa Conlon

When Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, came to the United States in 1989 as a foreign student from Canada, he could never have imagined that one of his greatest challenges would also present him with a chance to bring about positive change in this country.

As one half of a binational couple and a newly-admitted lawyer with an expiring visa, he went looking for help with his own immigration status. What he found was common cause with activists and other lesbian and gay couples. This empowered him to join the broader LGBT movement for social justice and launch a national grass-roots campaign for immigration equality. Over time, strategies evolved, but he remained absolutely convinced that the greatest tool for achieving victory was the personal stories of binational couples struggling to be together in this country.

Los Angeles based filmmaker, Brynn Gelbard, first met her Irish-born partner, Lisa, eleven years ago in San Francisco. By then, Lisa had already won a green card in the lottery. Over the years, they came to know other couples who weren’t so lucky, which inspired Brynn to help.

Through her project, The DeVote Campaign, she has been creating videos of people from all walks of life discussing what inspired them to fight for LGBT equality. For so long, binational couples were afraid that if they publically took a stand, they risked being torn apart. As the Obama administration introduced new family-friendly deportation policies, binational couples seized the moment and began speaking out more forcefully than ever before about the hardships they endure. Increasingly, their target was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that denies recognition of their marriages for all purposes including immigration and thus remains the sole obstacle to attaining a green card and a secure future for their families. Brynn jumped at the chance to record their stories and publish them online as a tool for inciting dialogue and change.

When Lavi and Brynn met in 2011, their decision to collaborate was rooted in the mutual conviction that exposing a mass audience to the unimaginable, real-life implications of this unjust law——the excruciating choices, crippling uncertainty and gut-wrenching sacrifices——was essential to mobilizing widespread, public demand for action.

On a shoe-string budget, Lavi and Brynn have traveled from Boston to Miami Beach, from Charlotte to San Francisco, collecting hundreds of hours of video of married lesbian and gay couples who are fully engaged in the fight against DOMA. These are voices of spouses who are assuming their own equality, who do not need a court or a Congress to tell them that their marriages are deserving of the same respect and, most importantly, the same protection under the law.

Photo by Joanna Chau

The result is “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,” a series of short films featuring these brave couples. The first to be released introduces Daniel and Yohandel, two young men who met and fell in love in Miami and soon found themselves searching for a way to stay together in the U.S. Yohandel contends with the profound disconnect between the ideal of freedom that prompted his parents to leave Cuba and the experience of second-class citizenship that he struggles with as a gay American. As Daniel and Yohandel share their devotion to each other and their determination to overcome the inhumane consequences of DOMA, we are left asking ourselves how such a cruel law could exist in a country that promises “liberty and justice for all.”




  • Kent Peterson

    You guys hang in there! I think it is going to be good for you once the supreme court rules on DOMA. I was with my husband for 30 years, living illegally in America, always under fear. We are in Europe now and waiting to come back to America. Waiting, waiting, just like you guys. We know exactly how you feel. Lots of hugs and love


    December 10, 2012
  • [...] – as LA-based gay immigration attorney Lavi Soloway and filmmaker Brynn Gelbard illustrate in The DOMA Project’s series of short films, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front…– what’s immoral is perpetuating the discriminatory harm endured by loving bi-national couples [...]

    December 11, 2012
  • Jakob Schanzer

    Thank you for making these videos. I’m the American half of a couple, and most people don’t even know that I’m not able to sponsor my husband for a green card. “I thought marriage was legal in NY” is the common response.

    December 17, 2012
  • [...] video from The DOMA Project, which is collecting stories of binational same-sex couples, shares the everyday effect of the [...]

    December 17, 2012
  • Max

    Thank you Lavi and Brynn…for your incredible work! Love, Max and Franc

    December 17, 2012
  • Elian

    I’m loosing the guy that I love because of DOMA. I’m going back to brazil because I don’t want to be illegal here. It is really painful. We are suffering. It is not fair with us. P

    December 20, 2012
    • The DOMA Project

      Contact [email protected] to explore ways to keep him here!

      December 30, 2012
  • Kev

    Huge thank you for providing hope to countless couples who are unable to share a life with one another and those who face the heart-break of separation due to the legalized inequality prevalent in our nations unfair treatment of its citizens.
    Speaking on behalf of so many, thank you for allowing us a voice and a face to our brothers and sisters who have suffered without hope for far too long.

    January 1, 2013
  • [...] postpone having children of their own until their immigration status is resolved. The result is a series of short films titled “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against [...]

    January 2, 2013
  • [...] postpone having children of their own until their immigration status is resolved. The result is a series of short films titled “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against [...]

    January 2, 2013
  • [...] postpone having children of their own until their immigration status is resolved. The result is a series of short films titled “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against [...]

    January 2, 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.