GREEN CARD: Post-‎DOMA‬ Reality for ‪LGBT‬ Family in Boulder, ‎Colorado,‬ Hits Home When the Mail is Delivered

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On July 15, 2013, Cathy Davis received her issued green card in the mail. Cathy and Catriona are the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to receive a marriage-based green card after their immigration interview in January.  On July 3, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card for Cathy Davis based on her marriage to Catriona Dowling, making Cathy the first immigrant to become a permanent resident in the U.S. through marriage to her same-sex spouse.

This is what equality looks like.

PRESS RELEASE: Same-Sex Couple Raising Three Children in Colorado Becomes the First in the U.S. to Receive a Marriage-Based Green Card After Immigration Interview in January

USCIS Issues a Green Card to the Irish Spouse of a Lesbian U.S. Citizen

On July 3, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card for Cathy Davis based on her marriage to Catriona Dowling, making Cathy the first immigrant to become a permanent resident in the U.S. through marriage to her same-sex spouse.

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Cathy and Catriona are raising three children together in Boulder, Colorado: Cian (6), Mardoche (11), and Angelina (9).

Catriona Dowling and Cathy Davis joined The DOMA Project and filed a green card petition based on their marriage in June of 2012 to prevent their family from being torn apart and to demand equality under the law. They were running out of options last year when the extension of Cathy’s work visa was denied. After filing the green card petition and the application to adjust status to permanent residence, Cathy received an employment authorization card which allowed her to work and contribute financially to support her family.  The couple was scheduled for a “green card” interview with USCIS in Denver on January 9, 2013. They were told by the Immigration Officer, who thoroughly reviewed their documentation, that their case could have been approved that day if they had been a man and a woman. However, the interviewing officer put the case on hold at the request of the couple’s attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway, rather than issuing a denial.

Speaking from their home in Colorado on July 3rd, Catriona and Cathy said:

“We’re very excited and relieved, we’re over the moon for ourselves and for all families seeking equality. We set up an InfoPass appointment because there had been no action on our case since the DOMA ruling by the Supreme Court a week ago. With the statement from Secretary Janet Napolitano in hand, we wanted to ask why our case had not yet been approved since DOMA had been the only obstacle. Our InfoPass appointment was for 10:45 a.m. We brought our children with us in the hope that we would walk out of the USCIS Field Office with good news and a future to plan. We entered the waiting room at 10:40 a.m. and waited with others to be called to a window.”

Catriona described what it was like the moment they were called to the USCIS window:

“At 10:55 a.m. we were called to the window. The officer at the other side of the window began to log our information into the computer when another officer appeared, introducing herself as the Supervisor, and declared that ‘as of one minute ago’ Cathy’s green card had been approved. The time was 11:00 a.m. I immediately yelled out and began to cry, Cathy was more stunned with the news and quiet for that moment, which led the Supervisor to assume that I was the immigrant spouse. She explained that production of the green card had been ordered and it would soon arrive by mail; she also explained that Cathy could apply for American citizenship in three years, on July 3, 2016.

When we’re asked why we took this route and fought for this green card with the help of The DOMA Project we say: ‘Family is worth fighting for, and our family deserves the same rights as all other families, it’s that simple. It doesn’t take courage to fight for your family, it’s a responsibility.’”

Earlier this year, Cathy and Catriona were featured among several other families in the series of short films called ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Brynn Gelbard and The DeVote Campaign in collaboration with The DOMA Project. The series focuses on lesbian and gay couples across America asserting their own inherent equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law.

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

Just two days later, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov in Florida. Approval of a green card petition filed by a U.S. citizen is the first of a two-part process through which the spouse obtains status as a “lawful permanent resident” and receives the actual green card. (Marsh and Popov will complete the second part and receive a green card later this year.) 

Cathy and Catriona are the first same-sex couple to have a marriage-based green card issued by USCIS. Cathy Davis will forever be the first person to have shattered this barrier.

Coincidentally, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, the first gay couple to wage a fight against the Immigration Service were married in Boulder, Colorado, in 1975. They filed green card petition and assert that their legal marriage must be recognized for purposes of the immigration law.  Although they were unsuccessful in their lawsuit against the Immigration Service, they are widely respected as pioneers in the movement for marriage equality and immigration rights for lesbian and gay binational couples. Adams and Sullivan, who lived in Los Angeles, were together as a couple for more than 40 years until the death of Richard Adams in December.  They blazed a trail for Cathy and Catriona and inspired thousands of others who have take up the cause of equality for LGBT families.

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

“Seven days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a green card has been issued to Cathy Davis. She is the first same-sex spouse of an American citizen ever to receive a green card, and as such she will forever occupy an important place in the history of our civil rights movement. She and her spouse, Catriona, did not wait for change to come. They fought back by standing up to a powerful federal government agency that refused to recognized their marriage or their family. They refused to allow the government to treat them as though they were unmarried, and refused to allow their family to be torn apart by a discriminatory law. They were determined to protect their children and build a future together in this country, and they succeeded in making history.

The issuance of this green card is the culmination of a two-decade grassroots movement in which lesbian and gay Americans fought for the right to sponsor the person that they love for permanent resident status in the United States. It is also the final chapter in a fight for equality that began in 1975 when the first married gay couple, Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams, sued the U.S. government for a green card and lost.

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

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

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


ADDENDUM TO JULY 4, 2013 PRESS RELEASE

LOVE AT THE MOUNTAIN TOP: CATHY AND CATRIONA FIGHT FOR THEIR FUTURE AND THEIR FAMILY

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Cathy, Catriona, Mardoche, Cian, Angelina at the USCIS Office in Denver on July 3, 2013

Currently residing in Boulder, Colorado, Catriona and Cathy first met in 2006 on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Though Cathy lived in Dublin, Ireland, and Catriona lived in Colorado, they had an instant connection. After returning to their respective homes, they began a long-distance relationship, falling in love and visiting each other as often as they could. Their exhilarating reunions ended with tearful goodbyes, then long separations. As with many gay binational couples, it was only when they found themselves searching for a way to be together that they realized the severity of their situation. Until the Defense of Marriage Act Section 3 (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court last month, U.S. immigration law did not provide any way for a gay or lesbian American to sponsor his or her foreign-born partner to live and work in the U.S.

Finally, after two years, Cathy secured a work visa when a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored her to work as a nurse. Cathy was promoted, and her employer petitioned for an extension of her visa.

In January 2012, the Immigration Service denied the extension of Cathy’s work visa, forcing Cathy and Catriona to make a heartbreaking choice: Either Cathy would remain in the United States without lawful status, or she would move back to Ireland leaving behind Catriona and the children. Unwilling to allow their family to be torn apart, Catriona and Cathy decided that Cathy would stay and that they would fight for the right for their family to be together.

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Cathy and Catriona on the day of their green card interview on January 9, 2013

Their first step was to get married. They could not do this in their home state of Texas. They had decided to relocate back to Boulder, but Colorado also has a constitutional ban in place against marriages between people of the same sex. In May 2012, Cathy and Catriona married in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Catriona recalls,

“It was a very special day that allowed us as a couple to declare publicly what we had already declared in private six years prior: our love and commitment to each other.”

With their family settled back into their beloved mountain town, Boulder, Catriona filed a green card petition for Cathy, just as any other American would do for their foreign-born spouse. Despite the possibility that their case could have been denied due to the Defense of Marriage Act, they persisted, determined to protect their future as a family. With hundreds of other couples, they joined The DOMA Project to fight for a secure future for their family. USCIS interviewed Cathy and Catriona January 9, 2013 based on the green card petition filed by Catriona.

Shortly after the interview, Catriona shared her reaction with The DOMA Project:

“We understood that day that we were fighting for our family and for all other lesbian and gay binational couples. We left feeling that we had won another incremental victory in this civil rights struggle. It was empowering to meet with an officer and to make our case and we realized more than ever that we were indeed holding the government accountable and pressing USCIS to do better than simply issue denials based on DOMA. This was a huge step forward for us. It really was a positive experience. We left the USCIS office a lot lighter in step with a lot more hope and optimism than before. We believe strongly that we must do our part to make change happen so that our three children grow up in a world in which all families are valued and respected.”

Earlier this year, Cathy and Catriona were featured among several other families in the series of short films called ‘Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Brynn Gelbard and The DeVote Campaign and Lavi Soloway and The DOMA Project . The series focus on LGBT couples from across America asserting their equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law.

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

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

VICTORY! Green Card Granted to Married Lesbian Couple in Colorado, Cathy Davis is the First Same-Sex Spouse to Become Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States

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Cathy & Catriona: lesbian moms raising three children in Colorado became the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to receive a marriage-based green card after their immigration interview in January this year.

READ FULL PRESS RELEASE

This happened, just in time for The DOMA Project participants, Cathy and Catriona, and their three beautiful children to celebrate the Fourth of July. Cathy is the first same-sex spouse to become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States after having a marriage-based green card interview. Although their interview took place in January and could have been denied on the spot because of DOMA, the USCIS officer agreed that their case would have been approved that day if they were an opposite sex couple and she put the case on hold at the request of their attorney, DOMA Project co-founder, Lavi Soloway. Today, in an in-person meeting with officials in Denver they received unexpected good news.

Exactly one week after the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA, Cathy and Catriona appeared at that same USCIS office to ask why Cathy’s green card had not been approved and issued. Just before 11 a.m., the Supervisor came out to tell them that Cathy’s green card had been approved and ordered for production “one minute ago.” Unlike DOMA Project participants, Julian Marsh and Traian Popov in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who won approval of a green card petition based on their marriage on Friday, Cathy and Catriona had filed both the green card petition and green card application hoping they would be lucky enough to get to the interview before USCIS identified them as a same-sex couple. Cathy and Catriona were not issued a denial based on DOMA early in the processing of their case, unlike many other binational couples who filed similar cases as part of The DOMA Project’s three-year campaign to hold USCIS accountable for discriminating against lawfully married same-sex couples. 

As with the Florida couple, this victory confirms that DHS is prepared to recognize the legally valid marriages of lesbian and gay couples even when they live in states that do not. Cathy and Catriona were forced to travel from their home in Boulder to marry in Iowa last year because Colorado does not allow same-sex couples to marry. (Yet.)

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! We have made history again.

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(VIDEO) Love Makes a Family: For Cathy, Catriona and Their Three Children in Boulder, Colorado Everything is at Stake in the Imminent Supreme Court Ruling

Cathy and Catriona may be the first married, same-sex couple in the United States to receive a green card, after they completed their interview at the Denver, Colorado USCIS office and cleared all eligibility hurdles except for DOMA. Their case has not been denied, and The DOMA Project co-founder, their attorney, Lavi Soloway, says they may be the first couple to have their green card case approved the day the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.

Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA,’ produced by Lavi Soloway and Brynn Gelbard for The DOMA Project and The DeVote Campaign is a series of short films. The series feature LGBT families from across America who are asserting their equality by petitioning for green cards based on their marriages and demanding that the U.S. government treat them no differently than opposite sex couples under federal law. They are opening up about their personal struggles under the Defense of Marriage Act to shine a spotlight on this prejudicial law and end it, all the while ensuring their experiences are properly archived as history that should be learned from and never repeated.

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The DOMA Project Continues Press for Abeyance: Cathy and Catriona Attend Green Card Interview in Denver

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Arriving at USCIS Denver Field Office

Last week The DOMA Project traveled to Denver, Colorado to join Cathy and Catriona, one of our many participant binational couples, as they attended a green card interview at their local USCIS office. Parents of three beautiful children, they were running out of options last year when Cathy’s H-1B visa petition was denied. They decided to join The DOMA Project, file a green card petition based on their marriage and assert their right to be treated equally under the law. As a result of that filing, Cathy received an employment authorization card and the couple was scheduled for an interview. The DOMA Project has attended green card interviews with married lesbian and gay binational couples at a variety of local USCIS offices around the country over the past two years. To the best of our knowledge, Cathy and Catriona were the first same-sex couple to be interviewed in Denver. After their green card interview, Cathy and Catriona visited their Congressman Jared Polis at his Boulder office and spoke with him and his staff about the need for USCIS to institute an “abeyance” policy that would ensure that green card petitions filed by lesbian and gay couples would be put on hold until the Supreme Court rules on DOMA in June.

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Catriona and Cathy with DOMA Project co-founder, attorney Lavi Soloway, and Congressman Jared Polis in Boulder, Colorado

In Colorado we continued our collaboration with Brynn Gelbard and The Devote Campaign, shooting another short film for our series, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines in the Fight Against DOMA.”  We spent a wonderful afternoon with Cathy, Catriona and their children exploring Boulder, Colorado.  Their story begins when they met while mountain climbing in the Himalayas in 2006.  They were both originally from small towns in Ireland that were just a few miles apart. Catriona is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the United States more than 30 years ago. Cathy, who was working as a nurse in Dublin, began traveling back and forth between Ireland and the United States until she obtained a temporary visa that allowed her to work as a nurse.  Within a few years they had adopted a son from Guatemala and two daughters from Haiti.  With all five members of the family born outside the United States, Cathy and Catriona represent the uniquely American experience of immigration: a convergence of individuals whose paths to this country differed greatly, but who have formed one solid, loving, and beautiful family.

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And now they must fight to keep their family together.

Please sign The DOMA Project petition to President Obama (click here) urging the administration to stop denying green card petitions filed by same-sex binational couples and to hold them in abeyance until the Supreme Court rules on DOMA.

Cathy describes the experience of attending the interview with their attorney, Lavi Soloway, where the couple presented a voluminous file of supporting evidence proving that she and Cathy have a bona fide marital relationship:

“The days building up to the green card interview were nerve-wracking, filled with “what if’s.” We felt very anxious about the prospect of being rejected, refused, worse still, facing the very remote possibility of a deportation proceeding. We had no idea how we would be received or treated by the officer. We hoped for the best, but we prepared every category of evidence knowing that we might face a hostile officer. We knew that whatever happened, DOMA was our biggest obstacle. Despite our worries our conviction never wavered: we had every right to be there and to demand to be treated fairly and with respect. Furthermore, we had every right to make a request that our case be held in abeyance with the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA little more than five months away.

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“We had an early start. With our champions, Lavi and Brynn, we set off before dawn for the USCIS Office in Centennial Colorado.

I couldn’t relax knowing that we were probably the first same-sex couple to be interviewed in Colorado in connection with a marriage-based green card petition. Our family’s future, like many LGBT families across the United States, depended on this process.

We proceeded to the waiting area and within a short period my name was called. I was a bundle of nerves, but reassured myself that we were doing the right thing. We were presenting an abundance of evidence proving we were a married couple with a family. We only had the discriminatory and unconstitutional law, DOMA, standing between us and our future staying together in the United States.

The interview itself was great. The interviewing officer was kind, respectful, courteous, and very understanding. All evidence was accepted and our file is now being held for further review.

We left on a high note, encouraged that we had not been summarily knocked down, or turned away with our hopes and dreams in shatters. Most importantly, we had not been denied. We left hopeful and optimistic as to the future. We are fully aware that the ultimate goal, approval of our green card petition cannot come until DOMA is gone, we believe it is an enormously important step for USCIS to be meeting with us and interviewing us about our marriage, in short treating us like all other married couples.”

Catriona notes that she was happily surprised that her worst expectations did not transpire:

“I must admit that I really expected a cold, officious reception with a high probability that we might not get to even sit down with an officer before being shown the exit door with a denial. I suppose I braced myself to be treated like an oddity that had no place in a process that allows only heterosexual couples to be successful. Boy was I wrong! The USCIS Officer was extremely gracious and welcoming and followed the interview process in a professional and courteous manner, kindly letting us know that, although we had more than enough evidence of a valid marriage, she informed us that she could not yet approve our petition because of the law. Of course we understood that going into the process, but in her respectful treatment of our case and her careful review of our evidence validated our effort to be treated equally. We understood that day that we were fighting for our family and for all other lesbian and gay binational couples. We left feeling that we had won another incremental victory in this civil rights struggle. It was empowering to meet with an officer and to make our case, and we realized more than ever that we were indeed holding the government accountable and pressing USCIS to do better than simply issue denials based on DOMA. This was a huge step forward for us. It really was a positive experience. We left the USCIS office a lot lighter in step with a lot more hope and optimism than before. We believe strongly that we must do our part to make change happen so that our three children grow up in a world in which all families are valued and respected. Last week we took a step in that direction.”

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“Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines Against DOMA”

Cathy & Catriona: Colorado Lesbian Couple with Three Children Applies for Green Card to Keep Family Together

Cathy & Catriona on their wedding day in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Most mountain-climbing stories end when the summit is reached and the climbers are safely down the mountain.   Our story begins there.   Cathy and I met and fell in love while trekking and climbing in Nepal, and together we summited Island Peak, a  6189m peak in the Himalayas.  Little did we know that we would have summits of a different nature to overcome, the biggest and most challenging – keeping our family together.

Cathy is a beautiful, funny, intelligent, hard-working, adventurous woman, and a great mother and life partner.  As her wife, it is heartbreaking for me to watch her worn down and demoralized by the angst and worry that is imposed by the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that cruelly denies the existence of our family, and that so emphatically refuses to recognize her as the spouse and mother of U.S. citizens.  For us, DOMA is not just a technicality or an obstacle in an otherwise complicated maze of immigration laws and regulations.  It is not simply a chapter in the fight for equality for lesbian and gay couples.  It is unique because it denies the love we have for each other, our commitment to be partners in life, and to be mothers to our three beautiful, innocent children.  DOMA denies us the dignity and respect we deserve as human beings and as a family.  As a result of DOMA, we worry constantly about our future and the fact that Cathy may be forced to leave the United States.  We have gone to great lengths to try overcome the constraints imposed on us by DOMA, but we are running out of options.  I challenge the defenders of DOMA to define “family” and “loving and stable home” and justify excluding us from the protection that immigration law provides to all other married binational couples.  We will never give up the fight to keep our family intact.

This is our story.

For three weeks in October 2006, Cathy and I shared stories and challenges and enjoyed each other’s company while trekking and climbing in the Himalayas, and inside each of us we knew something else had changed but neither was able to acknowledge it to ourselves or each other.  We had grown up 4 miles apart in small towns outside of Dublin, Ireland, but we had just met through mutual friends.  Although an Irish native, the U.S. has been my home for over 30 years and I am a U.S. citizen.   As we parted in Kathmandu, Cathy for Dublin, Ireland, and me for Boulder, Colorado, I couldn’t understand why I was so upset.  I just knew that I wanted this woman in my life.   I leaped for joy inside when I saw an e-mail from Cathy in my inbox or a text message from her on my phone, and when she announced that she planned on a ski trip to Boulder over the New Year holiday I was overjoyed.   I was afraid to admit to myself that I was in love.

Pre-School Graduation

For over a week we skied and had fun in the mountains and in Boulder, my home for 15 years.   Both being adventurous women we shared our experiences, Cathy as an accomplished and global sailor and me as a marathon runner. We talked non-stop.  I had also shared with Cathy my desire to be a mother and told her that I had just begun the process of adoption.    The evening before she returned to Ireland, Cathy and I worked up the courage to tell each other how we felt, she confessed that she was in love with me!   I can’t describe the joy and sudden wholeness that overcame me in one second. This was it! I never quite understood until that very moment the concept of “just knowing” when you meet that special person, and knowing that this is who you want to share your life with.   I finally got it.

Leaving Cathy at the airport to return to Dublin was to be one of many times we would have to be strong for each other and trust that parting would not be for long.   For 9 months we met as often as possible, in Ireland and the U.S.,  and within no time at all we knew this was forever and we were meant to be together.  During this period we travelled together to Guatemala to meet our infant son.   We were both certain that we wanted to build a life and family together.   We both assumed that with her strong credentials and vast experience in a sought-after profession, Cathy would be able to continue on her career path here in the U.S.

The family celebrating the finalization of the adoption process.

Cathy left her nursing position in Ireland to come to Boulder in September 2007.  I had just returned from Guatemala with our 8-month-old son.   We were now delighted and proud parents of a beautiful baby boy, we were together, we were a family. We had no idea of what lay ahead and the amount of effort and expense it would take for us to stay together.  We had both climbed mountains around the world, but we never experienced living with such seemingly immovable constraints. We were about to find out just how soul-destroying and demoralizing it is to know that your commitment to your life partner is not recognized, and your family is not treated equally. Cathy and I had each challenged ourselves in various ways as single women, however this journey we were on as life partners was about to test us emotionally and become the greatest challenge either of us had encountered.

Hiking in Grand Lake, Colorado

Cathy got to work quickly on the effort to become a registered nurse in the United States.   From start to finish it took approximately 2 years because of the paperwork involved.   She had to travel in an out of the U.S. with different short term visas.  When she registered with the state of Colorado, we were hoping to find a hospital willing to petition for a work visa, however in the economic climate it was not to be.

Desperate, we looked for areas of the U.S. where I could keep my position and continue employment with my present employer.   We were fortunate to find a hospital in Texas that offered Cathy a position and petitioned for a visa.  However, while the visa was pending, Cathy had to leave us to go back to Ireland to await the visa approval.   It was a difficult time.  I missed Cathy, and our son now 2 years old, did not understand why he could only see and talk to his Mum on the computer.   His daily routine with Cathy came to abrupt end during this period, and he now had to go into daycare every day while I went to work.  He cried for her, and when he was sleeping I also cried for her.   Over 3,000 miles away Cathy was shedding plenty of tears too.

Not knowing when Cathy’s visa would be approved and desperate to reunite, we all travelled to Montreal, Canada to spend time together.   We were so elated to be with each other again as a family, even if it was just for a short time. Cathy had flown to Canada from Ireland and we had come up from Colorado. All this travel to a third country just so we could be a family for a few days. Looking back, it is hard to comprehend that we were forced to do this just to bring us together for a short time. And that short time went by too quickly, and it was followed by more heartache having to say goodbye again, followed by more uncertainty.

Hope at last, when news of Cathy’s visa arrived.  It was July 2009, three long months after she left.  A few weeks later she was back in the U. S.  We then had the arduous task of packing up the home we loved in Boulder, Colorado, saying goodbye to our friends, and moving to Texas so that Cathy could get back into the workforce and pick up her nursing career again.  She was over-qualified for the position,  but she was happy to be able to finally have some normalcy: to obtain a Social Security card and open her own bank account, and to have the satisfaction of being able to contribute financially to our household.   A driver’s license was still out of reach because the term of her visa was not long enough.   A Texas state identification was all she could get. She would not be able to drive for now. It was always two steps forward, one step back.

It was not what we had hoped for, but knew that being together as a family was our overriding dream and we were able to continue building our life together.

So we did just that, and made the most of everything.  Our family grew, we adopted two wonderful daughters from Haiti in 2010, then aged 7 and 5.  We were very busy with the children, and with the added income I could take leave without pay on Cathy’s work days so that we were both able to help the children settle into their new lives by being present and we would not need to place them in day care.   Our daughters settled very well and quickly bonded with their little brother.  With tremendous family and friend support and three fantastic children we were blessed with so much joy.

Cathy worked hard and enjoyed the job and opportunity in Texas.  She was promoted and the hospital wanted to continue her employment and petition for another visa.  This was terrific news. Our happiness was short-lived. Despite having been previously approved for a visa, the second work visa was denied in January of this year.  Our dreams of building a family together quickly gave way to a nightmare. Six years after we met, just as it was all coming together, we were terrified that again our family would be split up and Cathy would need to leave the U.S.   We were devastated.

Although we kept up a good front for the children, we were worried sick and struggling to find a solution that would keep Cathy in the U.S. legally and more importantly, keep our family together.    Cathy admitted to “sometimes screaming inside with distress”  at this unbelievable situation.  The children were unaware of the awful circumstances and like most parents we didn’t share our worries or the uncertainties that we faced.  We wanted to protect our children and not cause them to worry.  We put on a good face, and kept the struggles over Cathy’s visa to conversations when the children were not around.

We started to realize how serious the matter was. We felt we had to make plans, but what? We had uprooted ourselves from Boulder to move to Texas and start over so that Cathy could find work that would sponsor her for a visa. Now we did not know where to turn.  We could not fathom leaving the U.S.  We did not want to increase the instability for our children. We started to get legal advice. Appealing the denial was futile, it seemed. We were running out of time.

We decided to move back to our home in Colorado.   Cathy had contemplated going back to college but seeking a student visa came with it a high risk of denial.  She would have to leave the U.S. without any guarantee of getting back in.  We were scared.  For Cathy this experience felt like she had been stripped of any rights that the work visa provided, and for us as a family we were placed at the mercy of a government agency against which we felt powerless.   Cathy looked for someone to petition for another H-1B work visa but to no avail.

Cathy and I travelled to Council Bluffs, Iowa and married on the May 23, 2012. We chose Iowa because neither Texas (our home at the time) nor Colorado (where we have now returned), did not allow same-sex couples to marry.   It was a very special day that allowed us as a couple to declare publicly what we had already declared in private six years prior: our love and commitment to each other.  Shortly after, we joined The DOMA Project and I filed a green card petition for Cathy as my spouse.  We have joined the other families and couples who, like us, demand our marriages to be valued, respected and treated equally by the federal government for all purposes including immigration.

Now back in Colorado, we try and plan for our family’s future while the green card case proceeds takes its course.  The children are delighted to be here and excited about all our future adventures.  We are going to continue to work hard to achieve our American dream. All we want is the chance to enjoy the wonderful life we have built so far as a family.   After all is there anything more important to fight for?  As an American citizen I believe I have an obligation to myself and to my country to challenge the status quo. I cannot stand by as my wife is treated like she is nothing but a perfect stranger.

It’s exhausting being put in situations that you don’t want, you make the best of them while you can but you get to the point that you want to take your life back and plan it the way you dream it, just like everyone else.   Please if you are reading this write to your local government official and urge them to right this wrong.  Our Family, like many others out there, needs your help.

Because of DOMA we had to go to great lengths and expense to provide a modicum of stability for our children that every parent would want.  Because of DOMA we have not been able to live where we chose, or bring our children up where we chose, but we have had to chase a job and a visa that ultimately slipped through our hands.  Because of DOMA we have had to live like nomads to ensure that Cathy remained legal and was able to contribute to the family as is her desire.   Because of DOMA we cannot plan for the future with certainty.  Because of DOMA we now survive on one salary.  Because of DOMA Cathy cannot apply for a driver’s license.  Because of DOMA Cathy cannot advance her career in her chosen profession, nursing.  Because of DOMA we cannot travel as a family and allow our children the advantage of building nurturing relationships with loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.    But these are only some of the hurdles DOMA has created for us.   We have joined the rest of the families fighting DOMA because we recognize the need to fight for our common humanity and to add our voice to the numerous families who are at risk of being split up because of the Obama administration has failed to take any steps to protect us until such time as DOMA is repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court.  We urge the President to look at his daughters and his wife, and think for a moment what policy he would want enacted if his family was being torn apart.  We urge him to remember his parents, who were a binational couple who could avail themselves of the family unification provisions of our immigration law. There can be no excuse for inaction. No matter how much longer DOMA is with us, every minute that our families are torn apart by this unconstitutional law is a precious moment that we cannot get back.

Defeating DOMA and keeping our family together is a ‘summit’ we will continue to strive for.

Kids clowning around for the camera, Boulder Colorado, August 2011

© The DOMA Project

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.