Married But Unequal: Fighting Back Against the Indignity of DOMA

My husband and I have been happily married for the past two years. Luke was born in South Africa but has been living in the U.S. for the past 12 years. We live on a relatively quiet street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. We’ve created a nice home together with our two boys: Andrew, who’s 4 years old, and Thomas, who’s 15 weeks old. They’re two of the cutest dachshunds you’ll ever meet.

Like other Americans married to foreigners, I set out to sponsor Luke for a green card as my spouse, so, on April 29, 2012, I filed a Petition for Alien Relative (otherwise known as a Form I-130) with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services for my husband. We were optimistic that we would at least get an interview like all other married couples, but no interview was ever scheduled. Instead, on Sept. 24, 2012, we received a cold, brief letter from the Immigration Service notifying us that our petition had been denied. Why? Because we’re both men.

I married Luke, my best friend, my soulmate, on June 25, 2010, in Milford, Connecticut, a small, beautiful New England town near the coast where we’ve spent a lot of summer weekends with close friends. (You may have read our previous post, “Can the U.S. Government Recognize True Love?”) A year later, almost to the day, we celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, which brought the total number of states that permitted same-sex couples to marry to six (plus the District of Columbia). And soon, states from California to Maine may join them. But despite this progress, every married gay and lesbian couple is still profoundly unequal. We lack the 1,138 benefits, rights, privileges, and responsibilities that straight couples receive from the federal government, because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as DOMA, which denies federal recognition of lawful marriages between same-sex couples. Among them are veterans benefits, spousal protection from the estate tax, social security benefits for widowed spouses, medical coverage, and the ability to sponsor your spouse for a green card.

With the Obama administration’s explicit support of same-sex marriage and the decision by the president and the attorney general to stop defending DOMA in court (not to mention the growing acceptance from the public, Hollywood, and even the NFL), we set out on a path to try to get what every other couple wants — stability and the chance to plan and build a future together — but we cannot begin that journey with certainty until Luke has a green card.

The denial letter from Immigration Services clearly stated in an unapologetic, discriminatory tone that we are still, in fact, second-class citizens. Luke’s freedom to find security, independence, and a sense of “home” and work a 40-hour work week for a regular paycheck, get a driver’s license, and travel without anxiety was again curtailed.

We were denied without any review of our case (a service we paid for), which was particularly shocking. We were denied without an interview, without any effort to investigate the legitimacy of our relationship or Luke’s eligibility as an immigrant — in fact, without any consideration of the possibility that our marriage could possibly be legitimate, simply because we are both men. Granting us a preliminary review would not have required that the federal government stop enforcing DOMA. We did not expect our green-card case to be approved yet, and we knew that the government could not “recognize” our marriage for legal benefits. But we did expect this administration to treat us with dignity and respect by meeting with us to determine that we were otherwise eligible for Luke to receive a green card, so we believed that the time was right to petition and at least have our case put on hold, or “in abeyance,” until the United States Supreme Court finally rules definitively on the constitutionality of DOMA, which is expected to happen next year. Not only was rejecting us without knowing anything about us as a couple offensive, but it contradicted everything this administration had been saying about equality for gay Americans.

Regardless of how deep our love for one another runs, regardless of the fact that we were best friends for a year and a half before we started dating, regardless of the fact that I have never been more comfortable with anyone in my life, and regardless of the fact that there’s no one I’d rather spend my time with, the federal government has declared that our marriage doesn’t warrant the same respect paid to my straight friends’ marriages, because Luke and I are both men. That’s the only reason.

We just passed the 16th anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act. After 16 years it’s clear that the only thing this law defends is institutionalized bigotry. The letter we received from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, solidifies that fact. It was all there in black and white. The letter states, “This Petition for Alien Relative (I-130), filed on April 9, 2012, seeks to classify the beneficiary as the spouse of a United States citizen…,” and continues to point out that only because we’re gay, we do not deserve the same rights as our straight friends:

Both you and the beneficiary are male. You married on June 29, 2010, in Connecticut. The INA does not specifically define the term “spouse” with respect to gender, but Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) states for purposes of eligibility for federal benefits, “marriage” means “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and the word “spouse” refers “only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” … The DOMA applies as a matter of federal law whether or not your marriage is recognized under state law. Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA your petition must be denied. We do not consider it necessary to determine whether your marriage is lawful under state law, or whether the beneficiary would be a “spouse” under the INA absent the DOMA, as these questions are not material to the appropriate disposition of the petition under the clearly applicable and controlling Federal statute.

“We do not consider it necessary…”: six words that hurt so much. “We do not consider it necessary…” It’s a complete disregard of every other aspect of our marriage. It throws out any consideration of every other element of our relationship that makes our marriage “healthy” and “strong” under any other definition. It was dismissive. And it was puzzling. The president of the United States has said that this law is unconstitutional, and seven times in the past two years it has been struck down by federal courts, and yet Immigration Services let us know that they did not consider it worth their time to determine whether we would be eligible for the green card if not for DOMA — a service we paid for in filing our petition.

This not only contradicts the words and deeds of the president, but it seems to reject recent decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals that require Immigration Services to determine whether a same-sex couple have an otherwise valid marriage and would be eligible for a green card if not for DOMA. That the Obama administration allowed its agency to send us this letter defiantly insistent on discriminating against us as a gay couple reminded us that we must continue to organize and educate and urge our president to do better. It is unconscionable that President Obama, himself the son of a binational couple, could allow this offensive letter to have been sent under his watch.

Living in Manhattan, we live in a bubble. It’s easy to forget how other parts of the country may view our relationship, and we kind of like it that way. I have rarely felt so discriminated against, particularly given that I stayed in the closet for 23 years, and given that when I came out, I moved to West Hollywood and eventually to Manhattan, two of the more accepting places in the country. I now realize I was blindsided by my optimism. Are opposite-sex couples truly the only couples that can keep the institution of marriage strong? Is the institution of marriage really that fragile? Can DOMA defend any marriages by denying married couples like us access to the green-card process? Of course not.

I wrote last year about my own feelings of inadequacy when Luke and I decided to get married, believing all the hateful proclamations that marriage wasn’t something in which gay people were entitled to participate. But those feelings were short-lived and have long passed, and I know today that I’m a good husband. So is Luke. The letter we received from Immigration Services was hurtful, but it doesn’t detract from that fact.

The truth is that Luke and I defend marriage every day — our marriage, the one that matters to us the most. We do everything we can to keep our marriage healthy. And as happy as we are at this point in our marriage, I look forward to growing old with Luke and learning more and more about how to be a decent, honest, respectable man each and every day. We defend our marriage by deciding not to walk out after a disagreement or a fight. We defend our marriage by settling our differences and never going to bed angry with each other. The defense of marriage is a personal decision. It’s up to each couple, individually. We’ve learned as a nation that what it takes to defend the strongest bond two consenting adults can have runs much deeper than the color of their skin. And soon we’ll learn it runs deeper than their gender. It’s about the core of the two individuals and the indefinable bond and commitment they make to each other through honesty, respect, humility, faithfulness, patience, joy, and love. I will love Luke no matter what. But we demand to be shown the same respect that our federal government shows to straight married couples. Denials like the one we received are a step backward on the long road to equality, and they cannot be brushed aside.

For now, our country is still bound to the past by this archaic, pointless law. Even though I believe its days are numbered, every setback must be addressed. And Luke and I will do everything in our power to see DOMA’s demise as soon as possible. We will continue to fight for a green card for Luke, and for a complete review and decision of our case. We will insist on that interview where we can show any immigration officer what love, commitment, and marriage look like.

I know it’s only a matter of time before anti-gay discrimination is viewed as negatively as segregation and bans on interracial marriage. And teenagers who are bravely coming out of the closet today will be able to look forward to falling in love with and marrying any consenting individual they want — maybe even their high-school sweetheart. Just imagine that. In the meantime, we’re seeking equality. We believe the institution of marriage is strongest when entered into by loving, committed couples, regardless of sexual orientation. And we will continue to defend our marriage every day.

Brandon Melchior and his husband Luke are part of a group of gay binational couples challenging DOMA and fighting for equality under our country’s immigration laws as part of The DOMA Project. This article was originally published on October 10, 2012 in The Huffington Post.

Christopher and Alejandro Marry in Tierra Del Fuego, But Are Forced to Live in Exile Because of DOMA

Alejandro and I met in Santiago, Chile, on March 5, 2007, after two previous missed encounters.  We had both been living in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago at the tip of South America where we worked as ecologists.  We even both studied the same thing – invasive exotic species.  However, Alejandro was from the Argentine side, and I was working in the Chilean portion of the region.  We had previously visited one another’s research centers in Ushuaia and Puerto Williams, respectively, but by chance when these visits occurred we were never in the same place at the same time.  This series of missed encounters ended when we both participated in a Latin American conservation course organized in Santiago.

Christopher & Alejandro – after the wedding, overlooking Beagle Channel

Alejandro and I met in Santiago, Chile, on March 5, 2007, after two previous missed encounters.  We had both been living in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago at the tip of South America where we worked as ecologists.  We even both studied the same thing – invasive exotic species.  However, Alejandro was from the Argentine side, and I was working in the Chilean portion of the region.  We had previously visited one another’s research centers in Ushuaia and Puerto Williams, respectively, but by chance when these visits occurred we were never in the same place at the same time.  This series of missed encounters ended when we both participated in a Latin American conservation course organized in Santiago.

Looking back now after five years, it seems amazing that from the time we first laid eyes on one another until the time we became a couple only took about a week. Since then, we have had to “fight” to remain a couple.  This was not only because I am a U.S. citizen, and he is not; our first challenge was more mundane. We had to manage a long-distance relationship in one of the most remote corners in the world.  Alejandro was finishing his Ph.D. when we met, and I had recently finished my own.  Therefore, he had little choice but to continue his work in Argentina.  Fortunately, I had more flexibility in my job to be able to visit him regularly. Even so, our time together for the first two and a half years of our relationship was only an average of one week per month.  Most often, I would travel from Chile to Argentina on a 12 hour bus ride across Tierra del Fuego, but occasionally he would be able to come visit me.

Wedding party at Ushuaia Nautical Club

In 2009, I was offered a job to coordinate a binational program between two universities in the U.S. and Chile, and we were particularly excited because there was even the option for Alejandro to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the U.S. university, thereby allowing him to obtain a coveted H1B visa.  It seemed like a dream come true that we could make a life for ourselves in the U.S. together.  However, Alejandro was kept from defending his Ph.D. dissertation for another year and a half through no fault of his own.  The result was that by the time he finished his Ph.D., the program I had been hired to create had fallen on hard times, and Alejandro could not get a job in the U.S.  No job meant no visa.  Our only solution was untenable in the long run, as Alejandro was forced to leave the U.S. every three months, spending up to six more months in Argentina before being allowed to return to the U.S. as a “tourist.”  As so many binational couples find, it is soul crushing to be forced to be apart from the love of your life for months at a time and to be grateful for the precious days he is “allowed” to visit.

So, 2011 found us at a stage where we had to determine our professional and personal futures. Even though Argentina had legalized marriage equality in 2010, we had put any consideration of getting married on hold until we knew what our work and financial situation would be like. Then, while attending a cousin’s wedding, we realized we could not allow other people or unfortunate circumstances dictate our lives, and somewhat impetuously decided to get married on our next visit to Tierra del Fuego over the winter break in the U.S.

“Family” identification certificate after wedding
“Family” identification certificate after wedding

We were wed in Ushuaia, Argentina on January 6, 2012.  Interestingly, Ushuaia was the first place in Latin America to celebrate a same sex marriage in 2009.  That first wedding occurred before the formal legal change to marriage equality in Argentina, thanks in part to the courage of the provincial governor who authorized the ceremony and took a courageous stand against the injustice of anti-gay discrimination.  On our wedding day, we became the first binational couple to take advantage of that reform in Tierra del Fuego. Our wedding was attended by about 50 friends, mostly from Tierra del Fuego.  Only a few friends from Buenos Aires and Alejandro’s mother could make the trip; sadly, no one from the U.S. was able to attend due to the high costs and great distance.

Outside the courthouse in Ushuaia, Argentina (6 Jan 2012)

As everyone knows, despite being legally married in Argentina, the U.S. does not recognize or validate our marriage because we are two men, meaning Alejandro cannot get a visa.  For this reason, we were forced to move back to South America.  Recently, we have taken jobs in Argentina.  Alejandro will work as a research coordinator for southern Patagonian national parks, and I have a job as a professor at National University of Tierra del Fuego.  We are happy with these decisions, as the professional and personal opportunities provided to us by Argentina are significant, including plans to adopt a child in the coming year.  At the same time, we are sad and hurt that my government’s policies of injustice make this a decision we are actually forced to take, rather than simply one we want to take.  It means that my family and friends were not only denied the joy of being with us in the celebration of our love, but it also means that we are forced into a kind of “exile” that, in spite of our best efforts to the contrary, leads to a lessening of the richness of the relationship we might otherwise have with my family and friends in the U.S.

Pelted with rice after wedding

In this way, the consequences of injustice go beyond our own status as a couple and affect the broader network of personal and professional relationships we have in the U.S.  We perhaps never fully realized the insidious nature of injustice.  It is truly something that not only has affected our lives, but also the very fabric of our community and nation.  It is hard to accept that so much control over such important decisions in our lives ultimately rests on prejudicial laws or the vagaries of getting the right job for Alejandro to be able to obtain a visa.  It is not mere rhetoric that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We see that very clearly now.

Our hope is that your initiative and other efforts are successful at eliminating DOMA; our regret is that we cannot help by directly taking this cause on as our own from the U.S., since to maintain our relationship and lives we are now required to be elsewhere.  As I see it, though, the ultimate question comes down to whether folks will decide to be the “Bull Connors” of history, unleashing fire hoses and attack dogs on the drive of equality, or whether they will embrace what seems to be an increasingly more just society?  The clarity of the moral, as well as the legal basis of what is stake should be clear.  In the best way possible, we will continue here and abroad to be witnesses for justice and human dignity.  In the meantime, love and respect can be our testament to what is right, which with hard work we are convinced will win the hearts and minds of people of good will.  Our own experience has already shown that.  With small and large acts of kindness and bravery, our own family and acquaintances give us hope that not only hearts and minds, but also laws will change; we have already seen too much of that to not believe it will continue.  The question ultimately becomes the side of history that folks will fall on.

With great respect and admiration for the work of The DOMA Project, we are,

Dr. Christopher B. Anderson & Dr. Alejandro Valenzuela

On the Beagle Channel

Nancy & Teri are Separated by DOMA, Unable to Plan Future. “We are just two souls that found each other and fell in love”


Nancy and Teri

My name is Nancy and I have been in a binational relationship now for over six years with my lovely British partner, Teri. We are not college-educated, or famous, or rich. We are just two souls that found each other and fell in love.

I met Teri in April of 2006, a wonderful woman who made my heart skip a beat and took my breath away. A mutual friend asked that I meet Teri in France and we would drive together from the coast. I had been traveling in Europe at the time, and had no idea that I would be meeting the woman who would change my life forever. We immediately clicked, I don’t know how else to explain it. We could talk to one another, be open with one another, care for one another in a way that neither of us had shared with another person. Our love and affection was immediate, mutual, effortless and came so naturally to the two of us. I knew after a very short time that I had met my soul mate, and I proposed to Teri in her living room in the U.K. six weeks after we first met. That was almost six and a half years ago. I never dreamed that a simple act of falling in love with another human being would be turned into a struggle by the laws of my own government.

But our time together has been plagued by worry and fear many times. During our first trip to England while traveling through France, I was detained and questioned for hours by an immigration officer. The officer spoke very flippantly to her supervisor about me and Teri. Our relationship was classified as a “love in.” She did not feel I had enough money, and did not believe I would leave the country. I was denied entry. I was then detained for another five hours by the UK Immigration for the French police. When they had no interest in me, I was released. While I was being detained Teri waited on the docks in the cold night air. We had, at the time, made arrangements to fly to Texas from the U.K, but now I could not enter. Teri had to take a boat trip home to get packed and meet me back France so we could make our way to Paris to fly back to Texas the first of many trips Teri would make to the US over the next six years.

I have been lucky enough to be able to go to England a few times since then, but each time I go to England I am detained and questioned, and Teri has had to endure the same when she comes to the US. We are both anxious at the thought of having to deal with immigration on either side of our trip. Everything depends on the person you end up standing in front of, and their mood. They do not care what pain they may cause and I actually think some of them get a thrill from this power.

We have known pretty much every year that between us we can save just enough for a plane ticket for Teri to come to the U.S. for a single visit. During one of the times she was questioned by the border officials, Teri was told that she has to stay out of the country for nine months before returning, or they would consider her to be living here part-time and that is not allowed.

Nonetheless, rules are rules and laws are laws, and we abide by them regardless of whether we think they are right or wrong. Unfortunately, doing things the right way does not make things easier, only harder. But even though at times we feel like we are fighting a losing battle, I cannot give up on my love for her. We will not silently suffer under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) any longer, and want to share our story, our life, and our love so that this ridiculous and hurtful law will change.

All of our family and friends want nothing more than to see us married and sharing life together, particularly Teri’s ninety-year-old Nan. Her wish is to see us married before she passes. At this time her health is failing, and our hope is to get married before she is gone. However, we are not getting any closer to this happening. I do not live in a state where it is legal to marry, and our finances have made it difficult to marry. In October of 2010, I was laid off from my steady job. I got another job in May of 2011, with the potential to finally make the money we would need to achieve our dreams of a marriage and future together. Sadly, that job was short-lived. I have been out of work since September, 2011. Suffering in this economy has made Teri’s and my regular visits even more difficult to arrange, not to mention our plans for marriage. Most days, I am alone in my home looking for work, kept company by my rescued, four-legged, furry son Austin (our pet cat).

Most nights I cannot sleep well because I miss Teri. I cry a lot out of anger and frustration because I am unable to do more than I have already done. I am not getting any younger. I face daily health issues, but I go on every day and keep fighting because I know Teri loves me and we share the same wants and dreams of being legally married and sharing a life together. We just hope it is before we are too old to be able to enjoy any of it.

Staying in contact when the love of your life is separated by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is difficult. We text each other many times each day. At first we exchanged daily phone calls, but now we video call twice a day for hours. When we are together in person, our life is right and extremely happy, but that time is always so limited. As the last few days of her current visit creep up, I feel as if my world grows dark and my tears fall uncontrollably. Teri feels she is abandoning me, and I feel I am forcing her to go. But Teri and I are caught between DOMA and immigration laws. Teri has a number of reasons she must be able to travel back and forth between the U.S. & U.K.: an ailing grandmother, a twin sister, and her mother who is battling cancer. Should anything happen to any of these people, people I consider part of my family too, I do not want her to have to make the choice between being with me or being with her family. This is what a law like DOMA does; it denies families the right to be together.

I have worked hard all my life, paid my taxes and abide by all the laws I am supposed to. I have very few living blood-relatives, but I fortunately have friends in the U.S. who have been my family for years. Now my family is also in England. I keep fighting in hopes that one day Teri will not have to choose which family members we have to leave behind just to be together. I do not want to have my wife to have to choose me over her family. That is not what love is about. And that is why we are fighting DOMA.


LISTEN: NPR Interview with Judy Rickard and Lavi Soloway on the Front Lines of the Fight Against DOMA

“We were at a point in the summer of 2010, I really felt that if couples started to tell their stories and didn’t take “no” for an answer but insisted on holding the Immigration Service accountable, requiring the Immigration Service to actually put in writing that it was going to discriminate against them solely because they were gay, that we could begin a dialogue with the government and offer solutions, offer ways to stop families from being torn apart.  We were very successful in the deportation context, and there were several high profile cases involving lesbian and gay couples that would have been torn apart by deportation and the Obama administration stepped in and stopped that from happening. Now we are making the same arguments.  You believe this law is unconstitutional.  You believe also that you have to continue to enforce it so you cannot approve these cases at this time, but you have a third way: to treat each couple with dignity and respect  to treat them like every other couple and to withhold a final decision on their case if it cannot be approved and put it in writing that the only reason it is not being approved is the Defense of Marriage Act, and prepare for a post-DOMA universe where we are all equal under the law.

We are chipping away [at DOMA] because we are forcing an immigration office in San Jose, or an immigration office in Albany, New York to sit down with a gay couple and look at them eye-to-eye and talk to them about their finances, their cohabitation, and their life together and make a record that this is a real marriage. Today those cases cannot be approved, but we never had those interviews before and we are starting to have them.  We never had these conversations before and we are starting to have them. If we don’t step up, if we sit back and wait for something to happen, then I think we are making a mistake, we are treating our own civil rights like a spectator sport. I think you have to roll up your sleeves, and you have to get in there.” – Lavi Soloway

On July 12, Marilyn Pittman interviewed Judy Rickard (author of Torn Apart) and Lavi Soloway on her show, Out in the Bay. (Click on the image above to listen to the broadcast.)

Press Release: Married Binational Lesbian Couple in Massachusetts Reacts to First Circuit DOMA Ruling

Married Massachusetts lesbian couple fighting for greencard react to court ruling finding DOMA unconstitutional. Court ruling strengthens the case that the federal government must start protecting married same-sex couples from deportations, put green card cases on hold.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lavi Soloway
Phone: 323-599-6915
[email protected]
[email protected]

PDF Download



U.S. Senator John Kerry Has Called for DHS to Recognize and Respect Their Marriage

MAY 31, 2012 – In a historic ruling this morning, a three judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously held that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that denies recognition to married same-sex couples, is unconstitutional and that “Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible interest.” This is the first federal appellate court to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA.

DOMA Project Couple React to First Circuit DOMA Ruling

Oral arguments in the DOMA case were held in Boston on April 4 at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Jackie and Gloria, a participant couple in the Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project’s campaign, attended to witness the historic arguments. On that day they knew that this case, which will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, will determine whether they will have a future together as a married couple.

Jackie and Gloria are legally married and live in Massachusetts. Jackie, a U.S. citizen, petitioned for a green card for Gloria, her Pakistani-born wife. (Read more about Jackie and Gloria’s green card case.) Because of DOMA, the federal government has denied immigration benefits to all married same-sex couples. Stop the Deportations – The DOMA Project has pushed for changes in the policies of federal agencies that would protect and reunite loving and committed same-sex couples who face deportations, separation from the U.S., and exile to another country because their marriages are not recognized by federal law.

Upon hearing that the First Circuit struck down DOMA, Jackie and Gloria could not have been more excited for the good news. “It’s great news, I’m really happy. It sends the message that the time has come to recognize the harm caused to married couples like us because the federal government refuses to recognize our marriage,” shared Gloria by phone.

Jackie could not believe the news; “I have no words. It is something that I’ve wanted to hear. I’m speechless. I hope that this helps change how President Obama treats Gloria and me. I hope this is finally enough progress for the administration to put our green card case on hold until DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.”

U.S. Senator John Kerry Calls for Change

Jackie & Gloria in Senator Kerry's office

Jackie and Gloria are not alone in hoping that the Obama administration will change their policies regarding legally married same-sex couples. In March of this year, United States Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts wrote to Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security on Jackie and Gloria’s behalf: “I know that you and I both believe that every family is worthy of recognition and respect, and that no family should be torn apart based on a discriminatory law. Therefore, I ask USCIS to consider holding [Jackie’s] petition [for Gloria] in abeyance pending resolution of DOMA’s constitutionality in the courts. Abeyance will allow this remarkable young married couple to move forward with their dream of building a life together at home in Massachusetts.”

Last month, Sen. Kerry and 16 other Senate colleagues called on the Obama administration to change their policies to protect same-sex couples who are impacted by DOMA and U.S. immigration law. “With marriage equality rights being extended to more and more citizens of this country, and with the Department of Justice’s repudiation of DOMA, we are concerned with the toll the continued denial of I-130 applications for same-sex immigrant spouses is exacting on families in this country.”

Statement by attorney Lavi Soloway

“In the past two years, three federal courts have ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Each court has found in favor of extending the promise of equal protection of the law to married gay and lesbian couples. Today, for the first time, a federal appeals court has struck down DOMA, setting up an inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court. However, until DOMA has been struck down by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress, married couples like Jackie and Gloria remain unsafe, unprotected, and unable to plan a future because of the constant pressure of uncertain legal status and the possibility that they will be torn apart by deportation.

The Obama administration should act now to protect all married gay and lesbian binational couples like Jackie and Gloria, by holding all green card cases filed by same-sex couples in abeyance and instituting a moratorium on deportations. The Obama administration believes DOMA is unconstitutional and won a victory today for its arguments before the First Circuit Court of Appeals. At this historic juncture, the administration should institute policies that immediately mitigate the discriminatory and harmful impact of DOMA.”

Jackie and Gloria are available for interviews.

For more information contact Lavi Soloway, attorney for Jackie and Gloria, founder of Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project.

Lavi Soloway
Phone: 323-599-6915
[email protected]

Derek Tripp, Project Associate
Phone: 646-535-3788
[email protected]

Boston Globe Editorial Features Senator’s Kerry Advocacy for Jackie & Gloria, Who Seek Abeyance for Green Card Petition


Today’s Boston Globe editorial reported on the denials of green card petitions for same-sex binational spouses under the Defense of Marriage Act and called for equal treatment of same-sex spouses for the purposes of immigration. The editorial told the story of Jackie and Gloria, a married binational couple from Massachusetts who are one of the many couples participating in The DOMA Project.  On April 4, Jackie and Gloria, accompanied by The DOMA Project’s co-founder Lavi Soloway, met with senior staff at Senator Kerry’s office to discuss the details of a letter that would urge DHS Secretary Napolitano to hold their green card petition in abeyance.

Jackie and Gloria met when they were college students after Gloria came to the United States from Pakistan on a student visa. A happily married couple in their twenties living in Massachusetts, they are struggling to build their lives together as they face an uncertain future under the Defense of Marriage Act. Faced with the prospect of seeing her wife deported to Pakistan, Jackie filed a marriage-based green card petition for Gloria earlier this year and sought support of their elected representatives to urge the Obama administration not to deny their petition.

Earlier this month, Senator John Kerry  and 16 other U.S. Senators called on Obama administration to request that all marriage-based green card petitions filed by lesbian and gay couples be held in abeyance.

Today, the Boston Globe became the latest major newspaper to call for an end to “DOMA deportations” that threaten to tear apart loving couples like Gloria and Jackie.

CNN Interviews Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy About Their Green Card Case and Their Fight Against DOMA

Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy were interviewed today about their marriage-based “green card” application and their fight against DOMA on CNN Newsroom. Lavi Soloway, the couple’s attorney and co-founder of Stop The Deportations – The DOMA Project, responded to a statement by USCIS spokesman, Christopher Bentley, affirming the administration’s policy to enforce DOMA in immigration context.

Mark & Fred on CNN

Watch CNN interview with Mark Himes & Frédéric Deloizy and their attorney, Lavi Soloway

Mark and Frédéric also appeared on CNN on January 14th. View other videos by the DOMA Project couples on our Videos page.

CNN Features Mark and Fred, Binational Couple With Four Children, Who Applied For A Green Card, Fighting DOMA

CNN reports on Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy‘s struggle against DOMA.

Watch the video interview of Mark & Frédéric and their attorney, Lavi Soloway


Gay Binational Couple Challenges the Obama Administration: End DOMA Exile, Let us Come Home for the Holidays

VIDEO: Gay Couple Challenges Hillary Clinton’s Pledge to Protect Human Rights of LGBT Persons Around the Globe

LGBT Organizations Call on Secretary Napolitano
to Bring Exiled Lesbian and Gay Couples Home
Thousands of Binational Lesbian and Gay Couples
Remain Exiled or Separated Due to DOMA

NEW YORK, NY — This holiday season, while millions of families across the country come together to celebrate, some Americans will once again watch from afar while living in exile. For binational couples —- lesbian and gay Americans with spouses or partners from other countries —- this holiday season is a reminder of the discriminatory U.S. law that tears families apart, and results in the forced exile of thousands of American citizens.

Join the fight to bring Jesse & Max home!

Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) lesbian and gay Americans cannot sponsor their partners or spouses for fiancé visas or green cards like all other Americans, and are instead forced to live apart from the person they love, or forced to expatriate themselves and live thousands of miles away from their families. The Obama administration has said that DOMA is unconstitutional and has refused to defend the law in federal court, yet it has failed to take action to protect LGBT Americans from its most devastating effect in the immigration context.

In an effort to bring national attention to the horrifying choice between love and country forced upon these binational gay and lesbian couples, LGBT organizations including GetEQUAL, Stop the Deportations, and Out4Immigration are calling on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to immediately reunite these couples with their families in the United States. The Obama administration could easily bring these couples home for the holidays by simply granting temporary “humanitarian parole” to the foreign spouses or partners of U.S. citizens, allowing them to enter the United States with that temporary status until a permanent solution can be achieved.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful and historic speech to the United Nations, calling on the international community to respect the human rights of all LGBT people, and instructing U.S. embassies across the globe to do everything in their power to assist all LGBT persons abroad. While the unprecedented, electrifying speech was watched around the world, LGBT Americans who have become refugees from their own country were hopeful that changes would come that would allow them to return home or bring their spouses or partners home for the holidays. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano now has the opportunity to fulfill the core promise of that speech for all LGBT Americans.

Watch the video of Jesse and Max.

Sign the petition at GetEqual

The video campaign features Jesse Goodman, an American citizen from New York, and Max, his partner of more than 10 years who is a citizen of Argentina. Jesse and Max are currently living in exile in London due to Jesse’s inability to sponsor Max for a green card because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Jesse has been forced to live thousands of miles from his parents and sister year after year, missing every holiday and family celebration. There are thousands of binational LGBT couples who are dealing with similar situations — forced to live in separate countries and see each other once or twice a year, or forced to find a home in another country that allows them to live together, that recognizes their relationship but leaves them far from the family they have left behind in the United States.

In a follow-up statement to the White House’s LGBT Pride Reception over the summer, the Obama Administration said that the President believes that “Americans with partners from other countries should not be faced with a painful choice between staying with their partner or staying in their country.” Lesbian and gay Americans across the globe rejoiced at this statement of support, but have not yet seen changes to laws or policies that would reunite lesbian and gay Americans with their families and provide a means for same-sex binational couples to be together in this country.

“Couples like Jesse and Max are forced to make the choice between love and country — to leave their extended families behind in order to stay together and preserve their relationship,” said Lavi Soloway, co-founder of Stop the Deportations-The DOMA Project. “It’s a horrifying choice that no American should be forced to make —- and one that could be solved tomorrow if Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano chooses to take action. Exiled lesbian and gay binational couples have spent many holiday seasons away from their families and friends, only because of U.S. laws that discriminate against them and refuse to recognize their relationships. We urge the administration to put its words into action, to end this forced exile immediately so that these lesbian and gay Americans are able to celebrate the holidays reunited with their families.”

“Secretary Clinton’s speech to the U.N. was incredible — and the Obama Administration has an opportunity right now to give shape to those words by proving to the LGBT community that it values and supports our relationships,” said Robin McGehee, director of GetEQUAL. “We’ve heard a lot of nice words from this Administration — now it’s time to move beyond words to action, and to bring these couples home for the holidays.”

Background on Jesse and Max’s story can be found here.

Permission is granted to use all photos found at, only if properly credited “courtesy Stop The Deportations”

Jesse and Max, and other binational gay and lesbian couples involved in the “Home for the Holidays” campaign are available for comment.

Press Inquiries to attorney Lavi Soloway,
or Project Associate, Derek Tripp.
Phone 323-599-6915
[email protected]
[email protected]

Founded in 2010, GetEQUAL is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, go to,, or

Stop the Deportations, Separations and Exile – The DOMA Project is a campaign launched in October 2010 by a group of married binational couples working with attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, who are founders of Immigration Equality and partners in the law firm Masliah & Soloway. The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of the cruel impact of the “Defense of Marriage Act” on married gay and lesbian binational couples and bring an end to that discrimination.

Out4Immigration is a volunteer grassroots organization that addresses the widespread discriminatory impact of U.S. immigration laws on the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV+ people and their families through education, outreach, advocacy and the maintenance of a resource and support network.

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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.