Lesbian Couple in San Jose, CA Receives The Third Marriage-Based Green Card After Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

USCIS Issues Green Card to U.K. Spouse of Award-Winning Activist and U.S. Citizen

On July 15, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Karin Bogliolo, 72, based on her marriage to U.S. citizen Judy Rickard, 65, making Karin the third gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.

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Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo

Statement by Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder of the DOMA Project:

“The issuance of this green card to Karin Bogliolo is the culmination of a two-decade grassroots movement in which lesbian and gay Americans fought for the right to sponsor the person that they love for permanent resident status in the United States.

Lesbian and gay binational couples and their families celebrated the Fourth of July this year with the Supreme Court decision in US v. Windsor fresh in their minds: having achieved freedom from a cruel law that has torn apart loving, committed couples, forced lesbian and gay Americans into exile to be with the person they love and has resulted in the unconscionable deportation of partners and spouses of lesbian and gay Americans. The long nightmare is over.

In striking down DOMA, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy held that, ‘[DOMA] tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage… And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.’

By issuing a green card to Karin on the basis of her marriage to Judy, the U.S. government is finally recognizing the inherent dignity of this family, and giving tangible meaning to Justice Kennedy’s ruling.”

Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo joined The DOMA Project and filed a green card petition based on their marriage in January 2012 to bring an end to their separation. Because the Federal Government previously refused to recognize their marriage, Judy was forced to take an early retirement and spend six months of each year outside the U.S. to be with Karin, due to the limitations of Karin’s tourist visa.

Judy and Karin met online in a lesbian chat room nearly a decade ago. It was their first face-to-face date to a PFLAG dance that sealed the deal. On Valentine’s Day in 2007 they became domestic partners, and in April, 2011 they married in Vermont before a justice of the peace.

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Judy and Karin celebrating their marriage with wedding cake in Vermont, April 6, 2011

Judy recalls their celebration in Vermont writing on The DOMA Project website:

“All we could think of then was to get married soon – after being told for years that getting married would cause problems for Karin every time she returned from the United Kingdom on a visitor visa… For me, what matters is Karin. I know she thinks I am what matters. It’s not even about our rings, the paper, the ceremony. We have lived it for years and we know it just by looking in each others’ eyes… Of course Karin and I have considered ourselves ‘married’ all the time we have been together, even before the ceremony and formal paperwork. We were married in our hearts when we had to be separated for months at a time while she dutifully obeyed the rules imposed on temporary visitors and returned to England after visiting me in California.”

Judy and Karin describe their experience as “love exiles.” They were not considered married in the eyes of U.S. government and were not permitted to live together as a family in the U.S.

“We didn’t have the kind of marriage that would satisfy Uncle Sam and so we had to follow those general guidelines for visitors. We were driven out of the U.S. for six months at a time, unable to return until we were sure Karin would be permitted to visit again. We could not live like this any more. In retirement, we yearn for tranquility and stability. We want to be left alone to enjoy our golden years together and take care of each other.”

Judy and Karin May 14 2011

Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo at the Torn Apart book launch party in Hollywood, May, 2011

The Vermont ceremony was a deciding moment for Judy and Karin, as they filed for a green card based on their marriage and stood up for every binational same-sex couple demanding equality under the law.

Judy is the author of Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law (Findhorn Press, 2011), a collection of stories about the experiences of binational same-sex couples under DOMA. Inspired by her work on the book and her own personal experience, she and Karin joined The DOMA Project. Through the extraordinary power of sharing personal stories of lesbian and gay couples and their families, Judy and Karin embodied the injustices of DOMA in our national dialogue on marriage equality and gave a voice to the need for social justice.

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Challenging DOMA: Judy and Karin attended a green card interview in September 2012

For years, Judy and Karin told their story to anyone who would listen: from grocery store clerks and neighbors to their elected officials. This video of Judy and Karin is part of the series of short films called ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Brynn Gelbard and The DeVote Campaign in collaboration with The DOMA Project.

For her efforts as an immigration reformer, Judy Rickard was honored as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change by the White House in March this year on the same day that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Marriage Equality cases. Judy and Karin have fought tirelessly for the simple right to grow old together as a married couple. Karin says it best in the closing frames of the “Love Stories” video of them:

“I want to be with my partner: do the cooking, see friends, and I would love that for all the couples like us. All they want is just to live a life, a happy family life, people who have children, people who’ve been together maybe twenty-thirty years. We don’t want anything more, or special. Just, you know, what everybody else has.”

Judy and Karin attended a “green card” interview with USCIS on September 7, 2012. The interviewing officer put the case on hold at the request of the couple’s attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway, rather than issuing a denial.  To their credit, USCIS San Jose Field Office conducted a full and thorough “green card” interview of Judy and Karin, and treated them like all other couples.  Then, they held the file for ten months, defying specific guidance from the Obama administration that green card petitions filed by same-sex couples must be denied on the basis of DOMA in the normal order of business.

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Karin Bogliolo and Judy Rickard featured in short film, “Love Stories”

Speaking from their home in San Jose, California, Judy and Karin reacted to the joyful news of their victory, as they learned that the green card they had long fought for was finally granted. Karin, speaking through happy tears, said:

“At last, after so many years of struggle, huge expense, fear, and separation I can at last believe I am home. I have a home. I can believe I have a home. I am no longer afraid of being separated from the person I love most. At last I feel we can grow old together.”

Next on her agenda? A visit with her wife to their family in Europe that they haven’t been able to visit for nearly three years.

“We feel vindicated!” Judy smiled.

“With DOMA defeated and this green card issued, we can celebrate that we are now, finally, being treated as equal under the law.  As of today, I can proudly say that my government recognizes our marriage is as valid as any other marriage.  Our love has triumphed over hatred and bigotry.  It’s been a long, hard fight to be together and stay together legally and safely. This fight is for us and every LGBT family torn apart, pushed into exile or living in fear of separation.  With DOMA gone, we need to get back to work with our allies in other communities to create a fair and humane immigration system that protects all families.  Thanks to all who have helped us win our battle.”

Judy and Karin will remain active in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that policies are in place to protect all families.

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Judy and Karin in front of the White House after Judy spoke on a panel and met with President Obama in the Oval Office as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change for Immigration Reform, March 26, 2013

Just last month, on June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples for all purposes including immigration benefits, as a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.

Judy and Karin follow in the footsteps of several DOMA Project couples, in Florida and Colorado, in Los Angeles and Toronto. Just two days after the Supreme Court decision that struck down DOMA, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another gay couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Five days after the Supreme Court decision, Cathy Davis was granted a green card, becoming the first immigrant to become a permanent resident through her same-sex marriage to Catriona Dowling of Colorado. A second “stand alone” green card petition was also approved for Tom Smeraldo, a gay American living in forced exile in Canada with his Venezuelan husband, Emilio Ojeda. They left the U.S. six years ago to avoid the deportation of Ojeda to Venezuela. Additionally, the second green card was granted on July 12 to Shaun Stent, based on his marriage to John Catuara, residing in Los Angeles.

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Judy and Karin in front of the Supreme Court during the oral arguments in Windsor v. U.S., March 27, 2013

Since it was founded in 2010 by attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, The DOMA Project has filed almost 100 green card petitions for same-sex couples affected by DOMA. USCIS has announced that it will soon issue guidance for all DOMA-impacted immigration cases. The DOMA Project is working closely with members of Congress and with the Obama administration to ensure that all petitions and applications filed by lesbian and gay couples are processed as quickly as possible.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Project Associate Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project.

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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.