Senate Judiciary Committee Abandons LGBT Amendments to Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Ending 13-Year Effort to Pass the Uniting American Families Act

Republican Scapegoating of LGBT Families Leads Senate Judiciary Committee to Abandon Gay Partner Provision in Immigration Bill

Uniting American Families Act is Effectively Dead, After 13 Years in Congress

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats shocked advocates with a 180-degree reversal when they abandoned two amendments that would have included LGBT families in U.S. immigration law. Under threats and ultimatums from Republicans that a gay-inclusive bill could not have bipartisan support, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), reluctantly declined to hold a vote on either LGBT amendment. Four Senate Democrats, Durbin, Feinstein, Franken and Schumer, announced that they would not vote for the LGBT amendments because they believed doing so would risk Republican support for the larger immigration reform package. Gay organizations and LGBT families were outraged by the developments, as Democrats caved to Republican blackmail, and broke earlier promises to support the LGBT provisions.


Senator Leahy waited until the last hour of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s mark up to initiate discussion of an amendment would have recognized the marriages of same-sex binational couples for the purpose of U.S. immigration law, by carving out an exception to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Leahy’s other LGBT amendment, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), was not brought forward by the Chairman for discussion. The exclusion of UAFA was particularly surprising to thousands of binational couples and activists who have worked tirelessly on the bill for 13 years since it was first introduced in Congress in February 2000. Leahy stated: “I wonder if our grandchildren will look back on this day in the same way we look back upon the miscegenation laws of 40 years ago, and we ask, how could the Supreme Court even have had to decide the matter of Loving v. Virginia; why were those laws even on the books and respected and upheld where the Congress should have spoken up?”

DOMA Project co-founder, long-time immigration attorney and LGBT rights advocate, Lavi Soloway, reacted to the stunning loss in the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“Senators from both parties failed to bring our immigration law into line with the reality of American families in the 21st century. Republicans behaved like brazen schoolyard bullies, showing contempt for compromise and negotiation, which are inherent to a bipartisan legislative process. Senators McCain, Graham, Flake and Rubio held Comprehensive Immigration Reform hostage by demanding that Democrats capitulate and agree to discriminate against LGBT Americans in return for bipartisan support. Shamefully, for months Democrats stood by while Republicans engaged in a relentless media campaign of anti-gay scapegoating, spreading the myth that LGBT inclusion was tantamount to a so-called ‘poison pill’ that would allegedly doom comprehensive immigration reform. The result is a crushing blow to more than 40,000 lesbian and gay binational couples who have fought for years to be included in family-based immigration provisions. Senate Democrats abdicated their responsibility to fight for and defend all U.S. citizens and their families.”

“It is unconscionable that the U.S. Congress will now move forward with a once-in-a-generation immigration reform bill that excludes LGBT families leaving lesbian and gay Americans to face continued separation from their partners and exile from this country. The failure of the legislative branch to keep our families together underscores the critical importance of the upcoming ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on DOMA. We must defeat DOMA and ensure that all families are treated equally under the law to bring an end to the nightmare that torn apart thousands of families. We will continue to fight to ensure a smooth transition to the post-DOMA future in which all families are secure.”

Without inclusion in CIR, the overturn of DOMA is the last and best hope for same-sex binational couples desperately fighting to be together in this country. By the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a ruling on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. If the Court fails to overturn DOMA, green cards will continue to be denied to same-sex couples. Foreign-born spouses of gay Americans could be apprehended, detained, and deported. Couples will be forced into exile. Spouses will be forced apart and parents will be separated from their children.

For more information about these evolving events, or to schedule an interview, please contact The DOMA Project at [email protected] or contact Derek Tripp, Project Associate, at (646) 535-3788.

Defeat of DOMA More Critical Than Ever as Key Senate Democrats Signal They Will Abandon LGBT Amendments to Comprehensive Immigration Reform



Today will likely be the day many of us have long known would come. Twenty years of grassroots organizing and exhaustive advocacy have brought us here and yet it will now fail. The historic opportunity to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with an amendment providing for the unification of LGBT families is almost certainly gone.

Without an amendment in Committee, there stands zero chance of such an amendment being added next month on the Senate floor. Media reports (Politico, Washington Blade, AP) in the past few days have all but confirmed that at least two leading Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to empty Republican threats to sabotage immigration reform if lesbian and gay Americans are included. These two prominent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee could have stood up to the outrageous Republican scapegoating of lesbian and gay Americans, but they did not. If you have ever felt like calling a U.S. Senator, particularly if you live in New York or California, you should consider making that call now.


Despite hearing from tens of thousands of constituents in recent weeks, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) have not budged. They will refuse to vote for either amendment, and as a result, Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy will likely not call either of his LGBT amendments (the one based on the Uniting American Families Act, which I helped write 14 years ago, or his historic and unexpected Marriage Equality “DOMA Carve Out” exception) for a vote, knowing that the amendments will fail to garner the necessary 10 out of 10 Democratic votes to pass out of Committee.

The betrayal of our community by Senator Schumer who voted for DOMA as a member of the House and fought for gay votes when he ran for Senate despite HRC’s controversial endorsement of his incumbent opponent, Republican Alphonse D’Amato, is appalling to put it mildly. After all his promises to fight for LGBT inclusion in CIR, he has signaled day after day that he won’t upset the bipartisan Gang of Eight applecart by standing up for our community. Dianne Feinstein, who, 35 years ago, became Mayor of San Francisco after the assassination of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk, has once again failed to provide leadership when the going got tough. Her leadership on the repeal of DOMA via the Respect for Marriage Act notwithstanding, this was the moment that counted. This was the moment that required courage and leadership. The most vulnerable members of our community relied on Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein to stand up for us and end decades of catastrophic and irreparable harm to our families caused by DOMA and our exclusion from US immigration law.

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Today, it seems clear, they will betray us. Remember this when you are rejoicing about the seemingly inevitable momentum we are experiencing as one state after another passes Marriage Equality. Remember this when Facebook is filled with BREAKING NEWS telling you that 54 Senators have declared support for Marriage Equality. Remember this when staggering public polling results show support for marriage equality reaching new highs in places as far as Virginia, and with every demographic, including the oldest Americans. Certainly, this progress should be greeted with elation, but if our elected officials refuse to vote for our lives, for our equality, and for our future, our families will continue to be torn apart. Parents will continue to be separated from their children for years, couples will continue to be forced into exile or separated for many years, and foreign spouses and partners of lesbian and gay Americans will continue to be deported.

Who could have stopped this? Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein. Who has refused to prioritize the needs of their large constituencies of LGBT binational couples? Senators Schumer and Feinstein. Please, by all means, call their offices and let them know how you feel.  Regrettably, I am forced to conclude that at this point it is almost certainly too late to pressure them to change their position; nonetheless, they deserve to know what their cowardice means to our community. They have thrown us under the bus, caving to Republican threats, rather than challenging their GOP colleagues to be accountable for their inflammatory anti-gay messaging.

What’s worse, in my opinion, it is becoming clear that there was never any chance that either of them were planning to go to bat for us.  So, for weeks, we endured gay bashing by Republicans over amendments that were doomed to failure in Committee because they lacked the support of cowardly Democrats. This was a foregone conclusion, and it cost us dearly.

What remains? We must defeat DOMA (see more here) because these U.S. Senators, generally regarded with good reason as being allies of our community, refuse to exercise leadership when the going gets rough.  We must win a decisive blow against DOMA in the Court of Public Opinion, and ensure a smooth transition to a post-DOMA future in which all our families are reunited and secure.

-Lavi Soloway, Co-Founder The DOMA Project, Partner in the immigration law firm, Masliah & Soloway


Mindi and Bev: A Love Story That Began Almost Three Decades Ago, Continues With a Fight to Be Together in the U.S.


Mindi and Bev

We first met almost 28 years ago, when I was a college exchange student in London and Bev was on her young adult walk-about off that big island called Australia. We met on a month-long tour through Europe before my semester began. While atop the 7000-foot high Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland, Bev and I stumbled upon a cave on a fateful moonlit summer night. It was an idyllic evening with the moon shining into the cave. That was a life changing moment that would come to impact both of our lives in more ways than we ever imagined. We fell in love at that time and didn’t want our romance abroad to end.

London 1985

London 1985

Bev ditched her friends with whom she was going to continue traveling and extended her leave from work just to stay with me in London. It was devastating to experience that first departure when Bev had to return to Australia that winter. Each and every separation that would come thereafter was no easier.


Rome 1985

After completing my semester in London, I returned to my college and family in New Jersey, with a heavy heart without Bev. We wrote long letters to each other every day, and had to wait around one week to receive each letter through the post. There was no Internet, no Skype, and no texting in existence for us at that time. We each had stacks of letters and cassette tapes of us talking to each other. We spent a fortune on phone bills as we were insistent on being able to at least talk to each other for an hour every other week.


A whole year went by before we were able to see each other again. Bev scrimped and saved enough to be able to come visit me in New Jersey a year later for three months. I was still a college student, working part-time, and we simply appreciated just being able to be together over those three months. I tried to get Bev the “white Christmas” she had always dreamed of by planning our Christmas in Boston. Doesn’t it always snow up there around Christmas? Apparently not; it rained, and that didn’t even matter in the end since we got to spend Christmas together. From Boston, we went on to see our nations’ capital for New Year’s. It did snow there, just a bit late for Christmas. Our last few weeks together were then spent in San Francisco and Hawaii. It was in Hawaii when we parted again for another devastating separation. Bev went back to her job in Australia, and I returned back to college life in NJ.


While we were very much in love, we weren’t able to work out a way for us to be together permanently. The letters and phone calls continued on for another several years. A point finally came when we had to just stop contact altogether, just to keep our then separate lives somewhat functional.

17 years passed by without any contact between us. We each had moved on and, in the process, we had lost track of each other. I was at work one Monday in late 2009 when I had to retrieve a personal email from my cell phone. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw a Facebook email from Bev in my inbox. I was not really a Facebook user at all; my profile on Facebook included a photo of a dog, and in fact, I put a profile on Facebook only because of my 13 year-old niece. As it turned out, Bev wasn’t a Facebook user either. She ventured on just to search for me. She wasn’t sure if she found the right person, but she last knew that I was living in San Francisco, and she knew I loved dogs (my profile photo). Her email message was somewhat encrypted with references that only I would recognize. She wanted to make sure she found the right one. She did. My heart pounded all day and I was completely unproductive at work. The emails started and then the phone calls. We were both able to really appreciate the technological upgrades that had taken place over the years. Many years had gone by, but the one thing that never left either one of us was that burning feeling inside for each other.

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New Jersey 1986

We started talking about planning our in person reunion. It was my turn to go to her country this time. When we tried to figure out the timing, I thought we should wait out the next seven months so we could celebrate our birthdays together for our first time, which are one day apart. My ulterior motive (not shared with Bev at the time) was that I really wanted to lose some weight before seeing the love of my life again for the first time after not seeing her for 23 years. Bev was exasperated and was not about to wait seven months for our reunion. I relented and agreed to three months. I was going to meet Bev in Sydney around Mardi Gras. I was lucky to be able to get a month off of work and go half way around the world to reunite with Bev after 23 years. The flight and getting through customs seemed to take forever. I finally got through when Bev, at a petite 5’1”, leaped over the barrier and ran up to me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a stretch limousine waiting, along with a chilled bottle of champagne inside the limo. That was the first time we saw each other; we had not used Skype during the months we were back in touch and we only exchanged a couple of current photos of each other. We spent two weeks in Australia and two weeks traveling around the South Island of New Zealand. We had to keep pinching each other to make sure this was all really happening.

Bev was able to take a leave of absence from her job and return to the U.S. with me. We were able to have a somewhat normal life as a couple in the U.S. for the next 15 months, but Bev then had to leave the country and return to Australia. We were apart again, working hard to find a way to get Bev back to our home in the U.S. We were able to get another visa for her to return five months later. While we could more easily set up our home in Australia together as Bev can sponsor me as her partner, my parents are getting older, while Bev’s parents are deceased, so it made sense for us to settle down in the U.S. It would be much better for us to be able to get legally married and for me to sponsor Bev for a green card as my spouse, than to rely on a temporary work visa.  We do feel lucky that we are together, and we know we will be together for the rest of our lives, wherever that might be.


The point for us is that destiny is too strong to get in the way of us being together at this point, wherever we are in the world. We have learned that love has no borders and neither DOMA nor the U.S. government will come in between our love.  We feel it is important to share our story, because we too have struggled since 2009 to find a way to be together and build a home in this country. Brick by brick we are dismantling discrimination by sharing our stories.

Together for 25 Years Through Thick and Thin, Lynne and Alexis Share Their Story: Why We Must Defeat DOMA


Lynne & Alexis

I am Lynne, a US citizen in a domestic partnership with my Canadian life partner, Alexis. Though many see us as “married,” we legally cannot marry in California, and even if we could our marriage would not be recognized by the federal government. Each year we hope that this is the year we’ll finally be able to marry and have our relationship fully recognized so that, as a citizen, I can sponsor my wife for a green card, just as other American citizens are able to.

I was raised in a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley during the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, I was unaware of the discrimination that was prevalent toward gays and lesbians. I felt an attraction to a female friend when I was a girl, but knew somehow I could not mention this. I remember my older brother telling me, that two girls kissing each other was wrong and illegal. Hence, my first lesson of living in the shadows.

As I grew up and moved out on my own and entered the work force, I was drawn to and worked in non-traditional work for women in the mid-1970s. I worked in various positions of Shipping and Warehouse Management and have progressed into Logistics Analysis.

During the 1980s, I became aware of and got involved with the gay community. I was heavily involved with a group that helped gays and lesbians with the coming out process. I was involved first as a participant and then became a facilitator for leading discussion groups to help assist individuals with issues in coming out. During this time, “coming out” meant coming out to your family, not necessarily the world. I was still very deep in the closet where the rest of the world was concerned. I came out to my mother and sister and younger brother and though it was rough at first, my family began to understand and embrace me. After Alexis and I met and became a couple, my family embraced her as a member of our family. Alexis’ family accepted me fully as well. Her brother and his family come down from Canada and stay with us on their vacations as we are not able to cross the border into Canada to visit them.

Before I met Alexis, I had been in two gay relationships — one of eight years and one of two years duration. And though those relationships were meaningful I did not know or realize what real love was until Alexis and I became a couple. I had never met any binational couples before and was not aware of the restrictions they lived under. Yet I knew that when Alexis told me of these restrictions, there was nothing that could or would deter me from living the rest of my life with her. She is my life.

Disneyland 1990

While I was growing up in California, Alexis grew up in Vancouver, BC, Canada, within a strict Mennonite community. Her father was a rigid fundamentalist minister. In high school, she excelled in the arts and dreamed of attending art school. Her father believed art was not a “real career” and pressed her to attend bible school, as all of her relatives did. After winning a fine arts scholarship in 1976, Alexis began saving and planning to attend school for a career in the arts.

In 1979, Alexis entered the United States on a student visa. She attended design school and worked part-time. During this time, she met her first gay partner and learned very quickly that gays and lesbian were not treated equally as heterosexual couples. She naively assumed they could legally marry and was shocked to learn that not only was marriage out of the question, she was not to admit under any circumstances to being gay during immigration interviews. A co-worker recommended an immigration attorney, and Alexis sought his assistance. The attorney recommended applying for one year of practical training after graduation, and a retainer was put in place. As graduation approached, Alexis attempted to reach the attorney repeatedly with no success. She learned that no paperwork had been submitted and battled to have the retainer fee returned.

With her student visa about to expire, Alexis consulted a second attorney. He recommended “laying low” and remaining in the U.S. until amnesty was available. He also made sexual advances toward her.

In 1980, Alexis and her then partner suffered a home invasion and attempted rape. They chose to go to Canada together, where Alexis could work and save for a 4-year college education. In 1981, Alexis visited the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, where she learned that a Bachelor’s Degree was needed for her to qualify for a work visa as a “skilled worker.” During this time, Alexis’ partner suffered tremendous depression due to prolonged separation from her family. She returned to the U.S. to be with her family. Alexis followed six months later with a second visa.

After another year of school, funds dwindled and her second visa was set to expire. In 1983, she decided to remain in the United States to stay with her partner. These are the types of decisions binational couples are forced to make. Many of these decisions remain secretive and hardships remain unknown. Binational couples face a lack of freedom that affects both partners and their families.


Christmas 1991

Alexis and I met almost 30 years ago in Los Angeles and became fast friends. Five years later, after both our relationships ended, we began dating. Alexis was very nervous about the transition, fearing that if it didn’t work out, she would lose her best friend. Her fears were well founded as two of her previous gay relationships had folded, mostly due to the added stressors binational couples face. I, on the other hand, felt very optimistic believing we could have our friendship and a loving, romantic relationship – the best of both worlds. I knew within me that my love for her was so strong that nothing could come between us. I’m happy to say that, 25 years later, I was right.

In the mid-80s, I met Alexis and her partner at the time during various community functions. My partner at the time and I invited them over for dinner. Her partner and my partner had been in a previous relationship. Talk about a tangled web. Somehow, Alexis and I got stuck cooking the dinner while the two “exes” took a walk down memory lane. While preparing dinner, Alexis and I connected immediately and a friendship began. We lived and worked in the same vicinity and began carpooling. You get to know a person really well when you’re stuck in L.A. traffic during rush hour on a daily basis.

After Alexis’ relationship ended, she moved in with a friend. Though she no longer lived in the same vicinity, our friendship deepened. I would drive over to visit her on a daily basis and we would talk for hours. During this time both of us realized our feelings for each other were fast changing. By the end of November 1987, we were a couple. One and a half years later, we decided to make the move and live together.

We continued attending community events with friends, most of whom were unaware of the secret we held – that Alexis was a foreign national living in the shadows. It’s like living in a double closet. We joined a gay L.A. couples group and participated in many activities such as manning the booth during Christopher Street West celebrations and marching in the Pride parade. We attended many meetings and donated some of our lesbian artwork to raise funds for the organization. We served as the Hospitality Couple in the first year and the following year were nominated as Vice Chaircouple.

Alexis shared her past experience with me, she told me that being in a relationship and loving a binational spouse is extremely difficult. Every couple faces tough times, but the added fear and stress a binantional couple faces can be back breaking. I, ever the optimist, would not be deterred. I knew we were tenacious and determined, and would remain together in spite of the obstacles.

In the 1980s, an amnesty program was signed into law. We consulted with legal aides at a free clinic in Los Angeles, where we were disappointed to learned Alexis was 6 months shy of the date in order to qualify. She had not been “continuously illegal” during the law’s time frame.

In spite of not qualifying, our relationship continued to flourish and our families supported us. We always remained hopeful that one day we could legally marry and this nightmare would be over. It always seemed just around the corner.

Through the years, we repeatedly consulted legal counsel. They all told us the same thing: that there was nothing they could do unless we could legally marry or immigration reform would pass Congress.

By 1990, it had been seven years since Alexis had seen her family. We received a surprise call from her brother informing us that he was coming down and bringing Mum in tow. We had a great time showing them around Hollywood, traveling to the beach and just spending endless hours talking and reconnecting.


Wedding Day 1995

Throughout the 1990s we continued to take every step possible to validate our relationship. In 1993, when the City of West Hollywood offered the first Certificates of Domestic Partnership, we jumped at the opportunity. In August of that year, we received our Certificate of Domestic Partnership from the first city in southern California to do so. It felt like one step closer to marriage.

On November 27, 1995 we celebrated our eighth anniversary with a commitment ceremony lead by a legal minister. Invitations were sent, vintage wedding gowns purchased, and a friend offered their home for the ceremony. While my family was able to attend, Alexis’ family was unable to due to her Mum’s health and inability to travel at the time. We had written our own vows and said our “I dos”. Unlike heterosexual couples, however, we did not receive the Marriage Certificate after the ceremony. We did, however, enjoy a wonderful 3-day honeymoon in Laguna as a wedding gift from our closest friends.

In July 1996, we flew to Seattle with two friends and drove into western Canada, so Alexis could visit her mother. Alexis’ Mum had supported her since she came out in 1980 and consoled her when she learned that DOMA had been signed into law.

In 1997, Alexis’ Mum visited us, her second trip to California. Alexis’ Mum always treated me like a second daughter and would send us greeting cards to remember our anniversary and birthdays. During that visit, Alexis’ Mum wept with joy at the sight of the wedding gowns we kept.


Christmas 2002

In 1998, beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations, we were able to purchase a home together. This was one of the greatest joys of our relationship, the ability to nest as other couples did. We gardened, we decorated, we entertained and held family gatherings for the holidays. This was another step for us to be closer to marriage.

In 2001, I had to travel to New York for company business. It was a trip I did not want to make. It was in August, and my flight was originally scheduled to return on Tuesday, September 11th. I insisted with my employer at the time that I had to return before this date to attend classes that were starting on that same date. Prior to the trip, I directed Alexis on where the insurance policies were, I signed multiple checks in the event she needed funds, and told her that if anything happened to me she was to file a wrongful death suit. Little did I know that, because our relationship wasn’t recognized legally and DOMA prevented federal recognition, Alexis would never have been able to file a lawsuit had something happened to me. I was fortunate that I returned on Friday before the tragic event of 9/11. After that, we made an appointment with an attorney for Power of Attorney over medical decisions and finances.

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After 9/11, the world changed for everyone and we were impacted as well. We understood the need for security but began to live a more fearful life. With security tightening around the country, Alexis’ mobility was limited because, rightly or wrongly, we feared heightened scrutiny. We felt our world grow smaller and were feeling more isolated from Alexis’ family. We learned of ICE raids within our area that tore families apart, children came home from school and no one was there. Husbands and wives waited for their spouses to come home, but they did not come. I became concerned for Alexis while I was at work. My sister and brother-in-law gave us a security door for Christmas. Lack of mobility also meant that Alexis could no longer drive. She decided the risk of being pulled over was too great. Today, an appointment 15 minutes away by car takes Alexis 1 ½ hours by bus. She relies on others for rides. It’s a forced dependency she hates. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful inner circle of friends who understand our situation and offer their support in any way. One of our friends calls it “circling the wagons.”

In July of 2003, we registered as Domestic Partners in the State of California. Again, this felt like one step closer to marriage and gave us a bit of hope.

Alexis’ Mum had suffered many health problems. With travel impacted, Alexis feared her status would not be resolved before her mother died. In 2006, Alexis received the phone call every daughter dreads. Her brother, a fire fighter, had found her mother collapsed on the floor. She was rushed to ICU. Alexis consulted another immigration attorney, who told her she could visit Canada but not return to the United States. She said goodbye to her Mum via cell phone. Alexis felt like a failed daughter and fell into a depression at the loss of her mother. Not able to be at her Mum’s deathbed or in attendance at her funeral, or to help her brother in person during this time was too much for her to bear.

It was during this time that the Congress was voting on immigration reform. Again, we hoped for humane change. Every time a vote would approach, Alexis would dust off her years of documentation in preparation to file.

Alexis sent a compassionate plea via postcard to every member of the United States Senate. She wrote: “I could not hold my Mother’s hand to comfort her. I could not be at her side to say good-bye. The Senate returns on the day of my Mother’s funeral, which I cannot attend. Crossing borders could ban me from the U.S., the country I love. I work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to society. I want to come out of the shadows. For years I have hoped to see my Mother one last time. I prayed for humane immigration reform that would allow me to earn my legalization. We are one of many families separated by fear. Please remember me and honor my Mother when you vote on immigration reform.”

For so many years, we hoped that DOMA would be overturned so we could legally marry and I could sponsor my wife, as most other citizens do. We contemplated living in exile in Canada, where I as a US citizen have more rights in Canada as Alexis’ legal partner/wife than I have in my own country. Alexis insisted that we stay in California and not pull me away from my family. She knew what separation felt like.

Though we have been dealt some legal blows as a gay couple, those blows do not divide us. In spite of all of the laws that have come out to hold us back as a gay couple, it has not stopped us from loving each other, from being committed to each other. If anything, our bond and our commitment to each other grows stronger. During times when it has been difficult or when an unfavorable legal decision comes out, I confirm to Alexis that that’s OK, no matter what, we’re still here, we’re still together.

For over twenty-five years we have clung to the rocks, waiting for DOMA to be overturned or immigration reform which would include keeping gay families together. We have consulted, planned, hoped, had hopes dashed, read countless articles, met with attorneys, and done everything we could. Even though DOMA currently restricts us, we remain hopeful. Inclusion of LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform, under debate now in Congress, is so critical. Gay families must be treated equally and not be torn apart. DOMA hurts families in far reaching ways.  Anyone who knows what we have been through for the past 25 years would know immediately that all families are the same, that all love is the same, and the our immigration laws that are meant to protect us and keep us together must work for all of us.

We are grateful for the love we share. Each workday morning when we get ready for work, we say to each other, “You’re my everything. You’re my life.”

We feel incredibly blessed to have each other. We are incredibly grateful for this gift and this opportunity to share our story alongside all the other binational couples who have joined The DOMA Project.

Mother’s Day Present for North Carolina Lesbian Couple: BIA Rejects USCIS “DOMA Denial” of Green Card Petition


Just before Mother’s Day this North Carolina family learned that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected the denial of the marriage-based green card petition they had filed last year. The BIA sent the case back to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Office in Charlotte, North Carolina for further processing with orders to conduct complete fact-finding, including an interview, to determine whether they would be eligible for a green card if not for Section 3 of DOMA. This is the thirteenth time that a married same-sex binational couple, participating in The DOMA Project’s pro bono legal challenge to DOMA, has received a “remand” from the BIA after the USCIS denied their green card case because of DOMA. The DOMA Project has filed 45 appeals filed on behalf of married lesbian and gay couples never once has the BIA ever upheld the denial of a green card petition by USCIS. All the appeals that have been decided to date have ordered the USCIS to re-open the cases and fully process them to determine eligibility, clearly anticipating, it would seem, a post-DOMA future.


Ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, rejecting the denial of the marriage-based green card petition filed by Becky and Sanne

Becky, Sanne and their daughter Willow live in Asheville, North Carolina. They first joined The DOMA Project in July 2011 when they shared their incredible, moving story, “Ten Trips, a Wedding and a Daughter: Exiled Binational Couple Finds a New Life in Belgium.” In 2012, Becky and Sanne settled down to a life in North Carolina. They married and filed a green card petition on the basis of their marriage. They also participated in our short film series, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines of DOMA,” which was produced by The DOMA Project in collaboration with Brynn Gelbard and the DeVote Campaign. (Read more about our collaboration on this series here.)

So what is next for Becky , Sanne and Willow? As the BIA has rejected the denial of their green card petition, they anxiously await news from the Charlotte, North Caroline Field Office of USCIS and hope that their long-awaited marriage-based green card interview will take place next month just in time to coincide with a ruling from the Supreme Court striking down DOMA for good.  We wish Becky and Sanne a Happy Mother’s Day!


Rick and Gonzalo: Love Without Borders, Five Years Spent Fighting DOMA and Building a Life Together

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Rick and Gonzalo


Rick and Gonzalo met online in the first days of January 2008. It was cold and dark in Northern California where Rick lived, but it was the middle of a hot summer in Cordoba, Argentina, which was Gonzalo’s home. All it took was a “nice profile” instant message sent by Rick, and Gonzalo responded.

An online relationship began, including emails, chats, and skype and phone calls. The more time they both spent getting to know each other online, the greater the mutual desire to meet face-to-face. But San Francisco was over 6000 miles and 10,000 kilometers from Cordoba. Gonzalo was working long hours as the finance and administration director of a large manufacturing company, and Rick was working on his transition from a senior technology executive in Silicon Valley to a focus on philanthropy and real estate.

But with a connection that was strong and building, both Rick and Gonzalo were determined to meet. And when Gonzalo began planning a holiday in Brazil in February, Rick decided to “take the plunge” and make the long trip to see if Gonzalo was as wonderful in person as he was online. The plans were made: Rick would fly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil while Gonzalo was there on a holiday, along with three close friends from Argentina.

As Rick was flying from the U.S. to Brazil, he thought about his life and his relationships. As the member of a prominent Mennonite farming family, he was surrounded by love and a commitment to values and to family. However, homosexuality was high on the list of things that were “verboten,”  the German word for forbidden. He had left the community in Pennsylvania and felt more acceptance as a gay man in California. However, his career and his family forced him to stay “closeted.” A relationship with a European man had lasted 11 years, but his partner had never been successful at obtaining a “green card” to live and work in the U.S.

golden gate bridge

Rick began to imagine what would happen if he and Gonzalo really liked each other upon meeting. How would they build a life together? Where would they live? Was this a case of deja vu all over again?

Of course, the rest of the story is a now-familiar one, and similar to others on this site. Rick and Gonzalo met on February 16, 2008, and sparks flew. What was going to be a dinner together turned in to a week together. Rick met Gonzalo’s friends, and they all hit it off. Rick and Gonzalo were falling in love, hard.

A few weeks later, Gonzalo visited Rick at his California home. After another few weeks, Rick visited Gonzalo in Argentina. By June, Rick and Gonzalo realized they had a very strong connection, and they decided they wanted to be together as a loving, committed couple. But how? Where? What would they do professionally? There were many questions.

San juan argentina

California Dreaming

In June 2008, Gonzalo told his family and friends that he was going to the United States for an extended period of time. There were many questions, and Gonzalo was not really sure how to answer some of them. But in a huge leap of faith, Gonzalo arrived in California, and Rick and Gonzalo began a life together.

They had a wonderful time, sharing all the components of living together: meeting friends, caring for their dog, working on the house, going on long weekend trips, working on Gonzalo’s English skills, planning a future. Gonzalo began to make Rick’s house feel like a home for all of them. Laughter, music, and love filled the house.

But as time went on, reality began to set in. How would Gonzalo continue his career in the United States? How long would he be able to stay on a tourist visa? With previous experience with a man from another country, Rick began to become angry with American society and government. Why was he, a successful American paying the same taxes as everyone else, being denied the most basic right of all–the right to be with the person that he loved?

Rick had become active in politics, and he told his story to many people in the Democratic party, including then presidential candidate Barack Obama. And Mr. Obama told Rick, “I will fully support equal rights for all Americans, including gays and lesbians.” Rick actively campaigned for Obama and he returned to his home state of Pennsylvania to help get out the vote. For a period of 10 days in late October 2008, he knocked on doors, he made phone calls, and he told people that he believed that the country needed a President Obama. Rick and Gonzalo celebrated Obama’s victory in November 2008, but then as Proposition 8 won in California, the reality of the long fight ahead to stay together began to set in.


Gonzalo and Rick continued to share a life together in California when they could; Gonzalo would travel back and forth between California and Argentina several times a year to be home with his family and friends, and to obtain a new visitor’s visa. Finally that day came that all binational couples learn to dread. In December 2009, an immigration officer at the Miami International Airport began to question Gonzalo. Why was he coming and staying so often? Who was his American contact, Richard? After lots of questions, Gonzalo was admitted, but only for a few months. When he arrived in San Francisco, he said to Rick, “Honey, we are going to have problems staying together here in the U.S.” And Rick knew Gonzalo was right.

They began to interview immigration lawyers, and they learned that legal immigration was incredibly difficult. They explored investment visas and employment visas. All were difficult, expensive, time-consuming, and risky. They concluded that because the U.S. seems unable to control illegal immigration, legal immigration had become very difficult. Even as a young and highly-educated potential immigrant, Gonzalo’s choices were limited. And Rick began to remember all the different visas he and his former partner had tried. They had applied for an EB-5 investment visa, and after spending tens of thousands with immigration lawyers, accountants, and business lawyers, their application had been denied.

The more they deliberated, the more they began to weigh options involving other countries. Should they both move to Argentina? What about a new life together in New Zealand or Australia, or in the United Kingdom? (These were countries where Rick had once lived as a technology executive).

Argentina, here we come!

After much discussion, Gonzalo and Rick decided to move to Argentina. Rick concluded that his country, the United States where his family had lived since 1717 after leaving Switzerland and Germany for religious freedom, no longer wanted him and the man that he loved. They began the process of figuring out how to rent their home, get their dogs Maggie and Emma to Argentina, and where they would live. Would they rent or purchase a home? Would they live in Buenos Aires or in Cordoba? What would Rick do professionally? And how would Gonzalo re-enter the workplace, after having spent the past 18 months traveling back and forth between his home in Argentina and the U.S.?  All that disruption to their lives, could they just pick up the pieces and put it all back together in Argentina?

Since Gonzalo was only granted a few months stay on his last visitor’s visa, there was not much time to decide. On February 23, 2010, Rick took Gonzalo to the San Francisco International Airport for his trip back to Argentina. They held each other for a long time, knowing that their relationship was entering a new and rocky stage.


Many trips to Argentina

After Gonzalo arrived back in Argentina, the relationship went back to lots of phone calls, skype calls, text messages, and emails. Rick was left alone in California, trying to get the house ready to rent. Gonzalo was back in Argentina, without his apartment and a job. He was living with his parents, and he began to question what he would do. Would he wait until Rick arrived in Argentina?

Rick began to make as many trips as he could to Argentina, so they could keep their relationship on track, and so that they could decide together and support each other. But it was difficult to find people to take their young dogs, and to take care of their home. And the U.S. real estate market in 2010 was still very depressed. The rental market for large suburban homes was very soft. Many prospective tenants came and went, and nothing came together.

All the uncertainty put a big strain on their relationship. Depression and loneliness set in for both Rick and Gonzalo. They both knew they loved and missed each other, but what was the future for them?

Finally they decided that Buenos Aires was the best place for them to live, and Gonzalo moved there. He found a job, and a close friend rented him an apartment in Recoleta, a lovely neighborhood of the city. Rick would travel to Argentina every few months. But they missed living together. They missed sleeping in the same bed every night. They needed and wanted to live together immediately, but months turned into a year, and they were still living apart.

A New Chapter: Hope for a Future in the U.S.

In 2012, Rick learned about the work that Lavi Soloway and his team at Masliah & Soloway were doing. They were submitting marriage-based green card petitions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for certain carefully selected married same-sex couples in a carefully designed campaign to challenge DOMA. For twenty years, they were leaders in the field of immigration law, LGBT rights and marriage equality.  And they were successful in providing temporary immigration rights to foreign-born spouses of lesbian and gay U.S. citizens. When Rick and Gonzalo began to think about the possibilities, and the risks, they decided it was the right thing to do. Gonzalo sent Rick two dozen beautiful red roses, along with chocolate, a large red heart, and a card that said, “You are the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?!” Rick cried tears of joy, and called Gonzalo in Buenos Aires. Yes, he said. Si! I want to marry you more than anything in the world!

ready to get married

Wedding bells

In early October 2012, Gonzalo arrived in San Francisco. Rick and their “girls,” Maggie and Emma, went to the airport, along with flowers. When Rick and the dogs saw Gonzalo, they went running to greet Gonzalo. Their family was back together.  For months, Rick and Gonzalo thought about their future. They knew that they wanted to marry in the United States, but they still had no plan for a legal avenue that would give Gonzalo the right to stay in the United States.

i do

On February 7, 2013, Gonzalo and Rick were married at City Hall in New York City. Rick’s oldest brother, Ken, was their witness. The city opened its arms for Rick and Gonzalo. The hotel put them in the wedding suite at no extra charge. Waiters were bringing champagne to celebrate. The broadway show they attended, Jersey Boys, had their song (You’re Just Too Good To Be True). And on the day before they returned to California, the skies opened up and snow began to fall. The Blizzard of 2013 was like the icing on their wedding cake.

just married

The Green Card Case

In March 2013, Rick filed a green card petition for Gonzalo, just like any other American citizen would do for his foreign-born spouse. Under the careful supervision and legal counsel of their lawyer, Lavi Soloway, the couple applied for a marriage-based green card. As of this writing, Rick and Gonzalo still do not know what the outcome will be. Will their application be denied, which current U.S. law (DOMA) would dictate? Will Gonzalo be forced to leave the country?   This is the worst case scenario, but there are also some very positive and hopeful possibilities.  They decided to share their story with The DOMA Project, as well, to advance the incredible progress of this movement of binational couples.

Rick and Gonzalo have peace of mind, knowing that what they have done is blazing new trails to equality for all lesbian and gay Americans. And if their love-based application is denied, they will together leave the United States for one of the many countries that will recognize their relationship. They will not be denied the most basic right of all–the right to be together in a loving, committed, mutually supportive relationship.  Love will prevail.

May 7, 1996: The Day DOMA Was Born


17 Years Ago Today DOMA was Introduced in Congress

17 Years Ago Today DOMA Was Introduced In Congress.

Since it was signed into law by President Clinton it has caused immeasurable harm to lesbian and gay Americans and our families. It has destroyed marriages, torn apart families, depeleted savings, forced us to defer plans to start families, to buy a home, start a business or pursue our education. DOMA has robbed us of years of our lives, it has left us poorer, unable to care for our families, forced into exile, separated from those we love, living in fear of a deportation, hiding in a double closet and enduring a constant, crippling burden of stress that few relationships could survive.

And yet we are still here, tens of thousands of lesbian and gay binational couples, DOMA WARRIORS all of us, not waiting, but fighting. Not sitting on the sidelines, but joining a movement made by us for us. We have empowered each other, and we have created a supportive environment to share our stories and lift ourselves up. DOMA has destroyed much, but our love endures.

We have fought this fight for love, and we will win.

Keep up the fight every day until DOMA is gone and we have achieved full equality for our families. Do not give up and do not give in. Share your story ([email protected]) and donate at a level you can afford to The DOMA Project at and love will win in the end.

55 Days Left In Our Advocacy Campaign: Let’s Share Stories of 55 More Binational Couples to Defeat DOMA in the Court of Public Opinion


55 days until Supreme Court rules on DOMA. Act now to win the future!

We are looking for binational couples to join our campaign. Your story is a vital part of winning this struggle.

What should our story say? What should we share?

How you share your story is entirely up to you. Here are some suggestions that we feel make for a fuller story for the readers:

  • Tell us how you and your spouse/partner met, fell in love, and decided that you wanted to spend the rest of your life together.
  • Describe the sacrifices you’ve made as a couple to be together or to see one another.
  • Share how DOMA has affected your life. What would your future be like if you were treated the same as any other married couple?
  • Provide pictures or videos: images help establish an emotional connection between you and the readers, making it easier to relate to personal stories.

Your testimonials, videos, photographs will help us put discrimination into terms that everyone can understand: its cruel impact on individual couples and families. Anyone interested in getting involved to help raise awareness of the impact of DOMA on binational couples should contact us at [email protected] or via our contact form. All information received will be confidential.

Binational couples who are currently in separate countries and binational couples living abroad are welcome. Couples who want to participate without revealing their full names or other identifying information are also welcome, however, all couples are invited to write their stories in first-person voice or using first names only.  All stories submitted will be edited and reviewed by The DOMA Project Team including our attorneys and returned to you for final approval before posting.  All questions should be directed to [email protected]

Nine Years Later, David and José Are Still Planning For A Future Without DOMA


I was raised in small town Paradise, California.  José was raised in Talca, in central Chile’s wine country.  In 2004, we were both living in Miami. I had relocated to Miami from my work from New York,  when both our paths crossed.   A mutual friend,  invited José and I to meet at his home for dinner.  He knew we would become fast friends, but little did he know how fast.  When we first met,  I knew José was the “one.”  As funny as it sounds, for us it was “love at first sight.”   Jose later told me it was my smile that won him over.  We talked for hours at our first meeting, and immediately made plans to meet again.   Nine years later we are still talking and planning and spending our lives together.

Wedding Facing

That first day, into two, and then two to three.  Before we knew it we were spending all our time together. From that point on, José and I were pretty much inseparable.   We have so much in common and complement each other completely.  In the beginning we were looking for every opportunity to spend time together.  Since we were both in South Beach, Miami, we spent a lot of time just walking.  We must have walked miles and miles just talking and getting to know each other.

Being from the west coast, we had a lot in common: Chile and California are a lot alike.  We’re always comparing our origins and lives and taking about our families.  José told me a lot about how his mother were always very close.   He told me about his life and how his mother, was a woman of strong convictions, and a secret community organizer for democracy in Chile.  He told me about,  how his father, disappeared under that regime for over 6 months and that he never spoke of it.  José’s first experience in democracy was to vote in their referendum to overthrow their dictator.   José loved his mother dearly.  She was very happy that José and I had met, and was very supportive of us being together; she called me “son” when they talked.

Our lives have had its ups and downs, It has not always been easy for José, living in the US.  But the one thing we know: together we were strong and could accomplish anything.  Any problem that occurred that first year just seamed to disappear.   Together we were the two halves that were meant to be together to be whole.  We created a home together, moved to Coconut Grove, and adopted our first Dog, Lola, from the Humane Society,

One of the most important moments of our relationship was the morning when Jose and I discussed about getting married. “David, Are you serious about our relationship?” My answer was that I loved him and I knew it from the first moment I  first saw him and knew we would be together.  That was the moment we decided to become engaged.  We read that same sex marriage was now legal in Massachusetts, and we would be ready for it.  On New Year’s Eve  2005 on the steps of the Basilica in Coconut Grove,  Miami, Jose and I became engaged.  We both made a commitment to each other that night that we would marry when the time was right.

Our lives soon took us to New York, where I had lived previously.  After almost a three year engagement, in July 2008, I read that Massachusetts would permit out of state same-sex couples to be married in that state, and that former New York Governor David Patterson had decreed that New York would honor those marriages.  I was so excited when I read the news, that in my typical  not-so “romantic” approaches I “texted” to Jose,  “Will you marry me?”  He responded, “Yes.”   That was it.  Yes, I proposed by text message.

CHURCHThe next few months were all planning: the date, location, days off work, flowers, etc.  The one thing I knew was that I had to be married in the Church, since growing up I had always been a devout Episcopalian.  I found a priest that would do it and a Justice of the Peace for good measure to solemnize the occasion.  “I don’t want anything to go wrong,” I remembered telling José.  So on October, 3, 2008 we were married at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston.  A Priest, A Justice of the Peace, the acolyte for the Mass, the photographer and José and me.  The most private, yet most sincere and blessed event in our lives.   José reminded me how nervous I was that day, and I remembered seeing how scared he was; how serious he was to the commitment we had made to one another. That day we became David & José Jones-Munoz!  Our families were waiting to hear about our marriage, José’s mother and family in Chile and mine from California.  The big surprise was the two Lei’s sent from my aunt, from Sacramento, I was surprised by that choice, since Lei’s were not from our familiar traditions.  She told me that she had read that the lei was the symbol of love and she wanted us to be surrounded by love on that day.  We realized how perfect that was.

The  overarching impression we got that day was the loving acceptance that those who lived in Boston presented to us. From the clerk at the registrars office who took extra time with us, while she made the line of twenty wait, to get all the details correct, to the local café where we stopped for a quick champagne to celebrate for pictures, and telephone our families, where the entire restaurant passed a card around congratulating us on our great day.  In the Boston Commons as we passed those with business suits, strangers said to us, “Thank you for getting married in our city.”  To us that was the sign that our marriage was like any other marriage. It was real in all respects. From our priest and the Church ceremony, to the Justice of the Peace the impact was exactly what we expected.

Upon returning to New York, there were many issues DOMA that we confronted us in our day to day lives: we planned to buy a house, but we were limited by the opportunities and the programs that we could have applied from HUD.  José’s status would not permit us to do so. Even the State-run First Time Buyers programs  accepted our marriage but due to DOMA, we could not use his income as qualifying income. In another instance, José’s income disqualified us on a New York City local option. It came back to us over and over, that since DOMA was the law they could not help us with any process to buy a home.

Wedding Smiling

2010, was a hard year for José.  His mother had been suffering  from Alzheimer’s.  Jose had been making attempts to make her life more comfortable, but eventually she passed away in her sleep  That was a sad day for us both.  The pain he felt and the pain I felt knowing that he could not go home to see his family during this time of great sadness was indescribable. All I could do was to support him during those dark days, and let him know that his family was here for him. I never got to meet the woman that was such a great inspiration to José and made him the strong person that he is today, the person I love so much.  I would have loved to meet her because of her strong influence in her community and her family.

When New York passed Marriage Equality it was a great day for New York. We wanted to be a part of it, so, on the first day, July 24, 2011, we waited in line for 4 hours, and in front of a New York Court Judge Marcy Kahn, at City Hall we were married again. Our witnesses were a couple that had been together for over 25 years,  and inspiration for our relationship.   José was so emotional that the Judge had to ask if he was ok?  He was, He always cries when he’s truly happy.  (There was a lot of crying that day!) In New York we had all the experiences we didn’t the first time.  The crowds, friends and the reception put together for all the newly  married couples at the LGBT center in NYC by City Council President, Christine Quinn.  People stopping us on the streets to congratulate us from the sanitation man riding on a truck, to a waiter in a store, to a small kid with his parents, and tourists in Times Square all applauding and wishing us a happy marriage.

DOMA has placed so many obstacles in front of us that opposite sex couples don’t face.  The lack of immigration for José, his ability to work freely and have  economic security.  Our desire to buy a house.,  The Ability to travel home and mourn with his family when his mother passed away,  The security that if something would happen to one of us  how would the other survive?  So many rights and privileges that the Federal government provides to Opposite Sex Couples.  As   Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg said federal marriage benefits “touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. social security. I mean, it’s pervasive. It’s not as though, well, there’s this little federal sphere and it’s only a tax question. It’s — it’s — as Justice Kennedy said, 1,100 statutes, and it affects every area of life.”

After DOMA, our lives would totally change almost completely.

VIDEO: Surprise Marriage Proposal By American Visiting Partner in London, Another Couple Separated By DOMA

Celebrating Their Engagement

Celebrating Their Engagement

I departed San Francisco last week to again visit my partner in London. This visit was different however, as I brought along with me a ring and a secret.

After meeting two years ago, Michael and I had no idea how difficult it would be to just be together. As a binational couple, we have been forced to live apart for the last two years, with the exception of frequent visits back and forth. The Defense of Marriage Act prevents me from petitioning for him to be able to immigrate to the U.S. to live with me.

Michael and I are both the type of people that never let anything hold us back—any problem can be overcome. But what we were not prepared for, is that in this case, the law is designed to keep us apart by not recognizing our relationship. This was particularly hard for me to grasp since my brother was able to sponsor his foreign-born wife, while Michael and I had no similar option.

Throughout this time, most aspects of our lives have been put on hold, while careers, housing, doctors, and finances have all been in constant flux. It is also enormously difficult to nurture and grow a relationship while in different countries. When you love someone, you want to build a real life with them, not speak to them online. And yet, we know we are lucky because many couples cannot even enjoy visits because of limited financial means or lack of access to visas. I go to London regularly so that we are together as often as possible and Michael has spent a lot of time in the US, but it is difficult for us to manage the financial burden of a relationship that must be maintained over thousands of miles.

He is catching on to the surprise.

He is catching on to the surprise.

I believe that as we continue to tell the stories of our lives we will advance our country to one where all couples are treated equally under the law. Michael and I see a future in which the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, and we are able to live together permanently in the United States with access to a green card based on our marriage.

Back to the proposal! I flew to London for one of my regular visits and, secretly, I had planned to propose. As I decided how I would do it, I thought about all that we’ve been through. So much of our experience has been isolating and lonely. Moving frequently, friends not knowing how to ask how things are, and feeling unsupported by my government. I knew that I wanted this gesture to show community and support as we continue our fight to be together. I did not do this proposal quietly or in a private place. Instead, I used the cafeteria of the London office of my company and, as you can see in the video below, I involved a few hundred people in the project.


Five minutes before the proposal, all of the TV screens in the cafe showed a timer countdown. At about 10 seconds, Michael remarked “it’s really busy in here. Also, what’s the timer for?” I won’t ruin the ending, but I think you’ll enjoy watching this video.

Please feel free to share this with others, and if you are a binational couple impacted by DOMA like us, share your story with The DOMA Project. It is through telling our stories that we show the impact that these policies have had on our families, and we stand up and are counted. We know our love will conquer any of the barriers put in our path.

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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.