Anthony Sullivan Speaks Out, Fights to Reverse 1975 Green Card Denial Based on Historic Marriage

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Statement by Anthony Sullivan, April 22, 2014:

“On Monday, April 21, I appeared at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in downtown Los Angeles to ask the federal government to revisit their denial of the green card petition that filed by my spouse Richard Adams on my behalf in 1975 shortly after we became one of the first gay couples in American history to be lawfully married.

“Our green card petition was denied with a shocking letter from the INS that contained only one sentence calling us “faggots.” We sued the government and fought to be treated with dignity and respect and in the end we could not overcome the prejudices and bigotry of the time. Today we live in a different world. I want to the current Immigration Service to reopen my case, and reverse the denial of that green card petition so that I can be classified as the widower of an American citizen and obtain a green card after nearly forty years. My beloved Richard, who left us in December 2012, does not deserve to have the word “faggots” associated with his name in an official government file for all eternity. As an American citizen, he should have been treated fairly during his life, and now that he is gone, the least that the government can do is to render a legally and morally correct decision.

“I am fighting this battle 39 year later for Richard and for myself. I should be permitted to apply for the green card that was denied to me in 1975, and my marriage to Richard should finally be respected and treated equally under the law.

anthonys“Returning to the very same building where the original decision was made to reject us and insult us with the original “faggots” letter was certainly difficult. I certainly experienced a lot of unpleasant anticipation and concern knowing what I was about to do. But in the end, the experience of filing the Motion to Reopen with the clerk was clarifying. It was a positive experience to walk into their offices and submit my request for justice knowing that the individuals who work in that office now approve green cards for gay and lesbian spouses of American citizens as a routine part of their work.

“In the final analysis, I am optimistic. The world has changed and we are no longer labeled as “psychopathic personalities” and “mental defectives” by the immigration law as we were back then. I am a great believer in redemption and second opportunities. The government has an opportunity to do the right thing now.

Please contact my attorney Lavi Soloway at (323)577-9365 for further information, or see www.domaproject.org for additional historical documents and updates.

UPDATE: Anthony Sullivan, Gay Rights Pioneer, Seeks Reversal of 1975 Green Card Denial Based on Historic Marriage

Documentary Filmmaker Tom Miller, Anthony Sullivan, and Attorney Lavi Soloway

Documentary Filmmaker Tom Miller, Anthony Sullivan, and Sullivan’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, photographed on April 21 in downtown Los Angeles before filing the Motion at USCIS

On Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m., Anthony Sullivan, a 72-year-old gay immigrant, asked the Los Angeles Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to reopen his marriage-based green card petition which this same office denied four decades ago.


Gay Rights Pioneer Anthony SullivanAnthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway before filing Motion to ReopenAnthony SullivanAnthony Sullivan and Attorney Lavi Soloway Leaving Federal Building USCIS, April 21, 2014
 


Sixteen months after the death of his spouse in December 2012, Sullivan returns to fight for recognition of their marriage and for a green card, this time as the widower of an American citizen. Thirty-nine years to the day since Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams were legally married, Sullivan continues to fight for the right to have their marriage recognized by the federal government. By filing a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider with USCIS, Sullivan will ask that Adams’ 1975 green card petition be retroactively approved and automatically converted to a widower’s petition, which would give Sullivan the right to apply for a green card. 


TONY AND LAVI FILING MOTION

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway Filing the Motion

TONY WITH MOTION AFTER FILING

Tony with Motion after Filing

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing Motion to Reopen at USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing Motion at USCIS

On April 21, Anthony Sullivan and his attorney, Lavi Soloway, gave the Immigration Service and the Obama administration a unique opportunity to correct an historic wrong and reverse the gross injustice of its denial of the 1975 petition by putting Sullivan on the path to a green card.

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS


Listen to QP Exclusive: Interview with Anthony Sullivan, Equal Rights Pioneer


Read Press Release: Gay Immigrant Seeks Reversal of Infamous 1975 Green Card Denial, Based on Historic Same-Sex Marriage


Read Written Statement from Anthony Sullivan


Gay Immigrant Seeks Reversal of Infamous 1975 Green Card Denial, Based on Historic Same-Sex Marriage

On Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m., Anthony Sullivan, a 72-year-old gay immigrant, will ask the Los Angeles Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to reopen his marriage-based green card petition which this same office denied four decades ago.

Recent image of Anthony Sullivan holding the original INS denial letter from November 24, 1975, and original marriage certificate from April 21, 1975 (Photo Credit: Erin Taylor)

Recent image of Anthony Sullivan holding the original INS denial letter from November 24, 1975, and original marriage certificate from April 21, 1975 (Photo Credit: Erin Taylor)

In a letter dated November 24, 1975 and addressed to Sullivan’s spouse, Richard Adams, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) wrote only a single inflammatory sentence to deny the petition:

You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.

1982 rejection of Richard and Tony's case by the US Supreme Court

1982 rejection of Richard and Tony’s case by the US Supreme Court

Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams fought back in a high-profile lawsuit, demanding that the federal government recognize their marriage for immigration purposes.  Following ten years of litigation, they lost in a final ruling at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sixteen months after the death of his spouse in December 2012, Sullivan now returns to fight for recognition of their marriage and for a green card, this time as the widower of an American citizen. By filing a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider with USCIS, Sullivan will ask that Adams’ 1975 green card petition be retroactively approved and automatically converted to a widower’s petition, which would give Sullivan the right to apply for a green card. This would be consistent with what is a routine procedure available to opposite-sex couples in similar circumstances. Sullivan and Adams were together for 41 years after first meeting on May 5, 1971 at a Los Angeles gay bar called “The Closet.” Soon after they started dating, Sullivan and Adams decided they wanted to be married. On April 21, 1975, after learning that the county clerk in Boulder, Colorado was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Adams, a naturalized U.S. citizen, married Sullivan who is Australian. The couple returned home to Los Angeles and Richard Adams immediately filed a green card petition with INS on Sullivan’s behalf for the spouse of an American citizen. They became one of the first gay couples in American history to legally marry and the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government for recognition of their marriage.

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975 (Photo Credit: Pat Rocco)

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975 (Photo Credit: Pat Rocco)

Thirty-nine years to the day since Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams were legally married, Sullivan continues to fight for the right to have their marriage recognized by the federal government. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples, finding that discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. A few days later, the then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that USCIS would recognize same-sex marriages for immigration purposes.

On April 21, Anthony Sullivan and his attorney, Lavi Soloway, will give the Immigration Service and the Obama administration a unique opportunity to correct an historic wrong and reverse the gross injustice of its denial of the 1975 petition by putting Sullivan on the path to a green card.

Original INS denial letter issued to Richard Adams

Original INS denial letter issued to Richard Adams

“We are asking the government to reopen and reconsider the denial of the marriage-based green card petition filed by Richard Adams in 1975 and to approve that petition.  In doing so, the Immigration Service will fulfill the promise of equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Granting our motion and approving this petition is consistent with the recent policies of the administration and the Immigration Service to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. The widows and widowers of gay and lesbian Americans who seek to resolve their immigration status must have access to the provisions of law already available to other surviving spouses of U.S. citizens who are permitted to self-petition for a green card,” said Lavi S. Soloway, a partner in the immigration law firm, Masliah & Soloway. The firm’s partners, Noemi Masliah and Lavi Soloway, founded The DOMA Project in 2010, a pro bono advocacy and education campaign focused on the historic exclusion of married gay and lesbian couples under U.S. immigration law and its lasting effects.

“Although we are sad Richard Adams did not live to see this day, we are optimistic the government will grant this Motion to Reopen and take the necessary steps to fulfill his desire that Mr. Sullivan be granted lawful permanent resident status by issuing a green card on the basis of their marriage. This unprecedented request is a matter of basic decency and tests our American ideals of equality and justice. We are asking the federal government, at long last, to treat this marriage with the dignity and respect it deserves, and, in so doing, to repudiate the unacceptable and hateful language that was used by INS in 1975.” Soloway said.


Original marriage license issued to Richard Adams and Antony Sullivan

Marriage License and Marriage Certificate confirming the lawful marriage of Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan as issued and registered by Boulder County, Colorado on April 21, 1975. Note: this certified copy was obtained from the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder on April 8, 2014.


Listen to QP Exclusive: Interview with Anthony Sullivan, Equal Rights Pioneer


View Event Photos and Updates


 View a list of archival documents for press


Read Written Statement from Anthony Sullivan


 

For further information, please contact David Valk or Erin Taylor at (323) 577-9365 or [email protected].

23 Years Together, Raising Four Children, Mark and Frédéric Rejoice at Their Approved Green Card Case

markfredapproved

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy, stepped up to the front lines of the fight against DOMA early on in 2011 by filing a marriage-based green card petition and advocating for full equality for their family. As a foreigner, Frédéric, a French national, had seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, and the time he had left to share with his family was limited under DOMA.

Frédéric and Mark were wed in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. In two decades together, they have adopted four beautiful children. They welcomed their two oldest, John and Claire, just days after their respective birthdays in 2000 and 2003. On their 19th anniversary in April 2009, Fred and Mark welcomed Jacob and Joshua, both four years old at the time.

FM KIDS TREE 600

Mark and Frédéric have put countless efforts over the past few years into staying together as a family in the United States: building their home, and putting down their roots. On January 11th, last year, they appeared before a Philadelphia Immigration Officer for a “Green Card” interview to put forward the evidence of their two-decades relationship and their marriage to be allowed to stay together with their children in this country.

After twenty-three years together for Mark and Frédéric, this family of six in Pennsylvania was notified that Fred and Mark’s green card case was, at last, approved. Despite the hurdles they faced to stay together as a same-sex binational couple, Fred and Mark decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage and today that fight was won at long last.

We rejoice with Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua, as after a long struggle, this family can resume their lives, treated equally under the law.

Mark & Fred with their family

Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 2010

 

Family Celebrates! San Jose Lesbian Couple Receives Green Card, UK Spouse Can Finally Visit Her Children Abroad

judykarin-equalitygreencard

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

Karin and Judy attended their green card interview in September, 2012 with their attorney, Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, who proceeded to persuade the USCIS office in San Jose to put their case on hold for another ten months so that it would be approved immediately after the Supreme Court ruling.

Shortly after being approved, Karin’s green card arrived in the mail – a final physical proof that Judy and Karin had won their fight to remain together as a family in the U.S.  Karin Bogliolo can now live in the U.S. with her wife Judy Rickard without fear of separation, and can also travel to visit her children abroad. At last, Karin and Judy celebrate their victory, knowing that their marriage was treated equally under the law.

READ PRESS RELEASE

Gay Couple Receives Green Card: DOMA‬ Project Participants Shaun & John Celebrate and Keep Up The Fight for Equality

shaun-john-equalitygreencard3

This week, Shaun Stent had received his green card in the mail: final physical proof of John and Shaun‘s victory in 13-year fight against DOMA to be able to live in U.S. as a family.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Shaun Stent, on July 11, 2013, based on his marriage to American citizen, John Catuara, making Shaun the second gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.  The couple have been together since 2001. They married in January 2012, and have struggled for thirteen years to be together in this country.

READ PRESS RELEASE

GREEN CARD GRANTED: Tom Bercu and Claus Andersbo of Los Angeles

facebook-tomclaus-granted

Tom Bercu and Claus Andersbo of Los Angeles become the fourth same-sex couple in the nation to receive a marriage-based green card after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last month. The DOMA Project participants, Tom and Claus, who originally comes from Denmark, have filed their green card application earlier this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision and as a statement to the government that they will fight for their right to be treated equally as a family.

Tom and Claus follow in the footsteps of several DOMA Project couples, in Florida, Colorado, and California, in Los Angeles, and Toronto. Just two days after the Supreme Court decision that struck down DOMA, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another gay couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Five days after the Supreme Court decision, Cathy Davis was granted a green card, becoming the first immigrant to become a permanent resident through her same-sex marriage to Catriona Dowling of Colorado.

A second “stand alone” green card petition was also approved for Tom Smeraldo, a gay American living in forced exile in Canada with his Venezuelan husband, Emilio Ojeda. They left the U.S. six years ago to avoid the deportation of Ojeda to Venezuela.

Additionally, the second green card was granted on July 12 to Shaun Stent, based on his marriage to John Catuara, residing in Los Angeles. On the same weekend, Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo, a lesbian couple residing in San Jose, California, had also learned that their green card had been issued.

Read more about The DOMA Project victories on the following page.

SEE OUR VICTORIES

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

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

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

Judy and Karin

Judy Rickard and Karin Bogliolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JKWEDDING-CAKE

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

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

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

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

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

Judy and Karin May 14 2011

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

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

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

2613 Judy and Karin September 2012 DHS 630

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

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

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

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

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

J and K

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

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

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

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

“We feel vindicated!” Judy smiled.

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

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

72-judykaringate

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

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

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

67-judykarinscotus

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

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


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

Gay Couple in LA Receives a Marriage-Based Green Card Just Two Weeks After Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

USCIS Issues Green Card to British Spouse of Gay U.S. Citizen, Ending Their 13-Year Struggle to be Together

On July 11, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Shaun Stent, based on his marriage to American citizen, John Catuara, making Shaun the second gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.  The couple have been together since 2001. They married in January 2012, and have struggled for 13 years to be together in this country.

Shaun John Interview

John Catuara and Shaun Stent during their green card interview on April 23, 2013

John Catuara and Shaun Stent joined The DOMA Project and filed a green card petition based on their January 2012 marriage in order to prevent their family from being torn apart and to join other binational couples in demanding equality under the law.

John shared the story of how they met on the DOMA Project website:

“By the time I reached my mid 50s, I had begun to let go the hope of finding a life partner. Maybe it was a combination of society’s views of gays, combined with the scars of a Catholic upbringing, that left me feeling I did not deserve what most people had. All that changed when Shaun entered my life.”

After an online friendship developed, they first saw each other in person in January 11, 2001. John wrote about that day:

“… when he first saw me he was a little afraid, as I was bouncing up and down with excitement. If I was, it was nerves. In person he looked even better than his photos. As we ate lunch my hand began to tremble with joy. He reached over, took my hand and looking directly into my eyes, he whispering in his British accent, “It is OK, just relax”. Our lunch went so well, that Shaun altered his plans and spent his final week with me. It was then that we knew that this was more than just friendship.”

For the next decade Shaun and John lived what they called two half-lives: one half together, and the other half alone. Shaun would spend three months in the U.S. and three months in the U.K., separated from John by 5,000 miles.

In 2002 Shaun was stopped on entry to the U.S. and detained. Immigration Officers questioned him for hours at the airport. Eventually he was allowed to stay for six weeks but told he would no longer be able to use a “visa waiver program” to visit. He was told that he must apply for an actual visitor’s visa at the U.S. Embassy in London. Shaun did as told, and he received the visa; but several more times he was detained, sometimes for as long as five hours. While Shaun was detained and interrogated, John would be left waiting at arrivals, without any news, each time not knowing whether Shaun would be allowed to visit.

Once an airline representative threatened Shaun, saying that he was going to be handcuffed, taken to a detention center and flown back to the U.K. the next day.
 Every time he was detained, Shaun cut back the time he would spend in the U.S. hoping this would better his chances for another visit.

Shaun would ask immigration, how long he could visit without it being a problem. He was told, “You are just coming here too often,” or “visit here less than expected.” He was never given a clear rule to follow and this ambiguity left him with no certainty and filled him with anxiety.

The trauma of the constant travel and separations, the confrontations with border officials, and the mistreatment he had suffered on occasion, had a serious effect on Shaun’s health. He would sink into deep depressions as his visits came to an end and his departure from the U.S. came nearer.  Before his next return trip to the U.S., his fear of immigration would consume him to the point of not being able to eat or sleep. Each time Shaun became convinced that he would be denied entry and banned from returning to the US for ten years.

Twice a year, for ten years, they repeated this grueling routine. Shaun would stand in a line and John would be left waiting, hoping that they would be allowed to continue their lives together. John and Shaun were both all too aware that at any time, a U.S. Customs and Border Protections officer could destroy what they had worked so hard to build together.

In 2011, John faced a cancer scare, with the possibility of surgery, and was forced to face it alone without Shaun by his side through the experience. In January 2012 they celebrated their 11th anniversary as a couple. To coincide with this milestone they traveled from LA to New York and were married. On a stop over during the flight home, they were subjected to questioning by TSA.

John writes about the experience:

“As an American citizen, I have never been questioned in that manner. It was intrusive and spoken with an intimidating tone. For the first time I saw a little of what Shaun has faced each time he entered the US.  Although we were not technically being interrogated by immigration officers, the worst fears ran through our mind. We both panicked, fearing that if they found our marriage license in our possessions Shaun may be sent to a detention center for displaying intent to remain in the United States while he was a visitor; we had read that had happened to others. The fear in Shaun’s eyes was so intense, that I made up my mind that this had to stop! We could no longer live this way.”

That encounter was the turning point that drove John and Shaun to speak out against the injustice by joining The DOMA Project and to file for the green card based on their marriage.

This short video of John and Shaun’s 2012 wedding reception was featured as the first installment 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.

John and Shaun attended a “green card” interview with USCIS on April 23, 2013.  They were the first married same-sex couple green card interviewed at the Los Angeles Field Office. 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 based on DOMA.

On July 11 the USCIS issued an approval of Shaun Stent’s green card application and ordered production of the card itself. It will arrive by mail in a few days.

shaun and john

Battling DOMA: John and Shaun, Married Gay Couple Fighting For Green Card in Los Angeles, Meet with Elected Officials to Urge the USCIS Not to Deny Their Petition.

On July 11, Shaun and John won their fight of thirteen years. Shaun Stent was granted a green card based on his marriage to John Catuara.

Speaking from their home in Los Angeles John and Shaun reacted to the news:

“We are both happy and relieved that our thirteen-year battle has finally ended. We have had so much support from people over the years and we want to thank them all. However, for us the victory will only be complete when all same-sex married binational couples are united and have the chance to enjoy the same peace of mind we now have.”

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

John and Shaun follow in the footsteps of married lesbian couple in Colorado, Cathy and Catriona, who, last week, became the first same-sex couple to be issued a green card. They are also continuing the legacy of an 1975 binational gay couple, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, the first to file green card petition and assert that their legal marriage must be recognized for purposes of immigration law. In 1975, Adams and Sullivan received a denial letter from the Immigration Service office in Los Angeles, where they lived, stating that “[Adams and Sullivan] have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

It is the same Los Angeles office that granted a green card to Shaun Stent this week.

Although Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan 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, like Shaun and John, 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 Shaun and John and inspired thousands of others who have taken up the cause of equality for LGBT families.

lapride

John Catuara, Shaun Stent, Anthony Sullivan, the DOMA Project volunteer Donna Gough and The DOMA Project Associate Derek Tripp at Los Angeles Pride in July 2013.

Just two days after the Supreme Court decision that struck down DOMA, the first “stand alone” green-card petition was approved on June 28, 2013, for another gay couple working with The DOMA Project: Julian Marsh and Traian Popov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (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.)

A second “stand alone” green card petition was approved for Tom Smeraldo, a gay American living in forced exile in Canada with his Venezuelan husband, Emilio Ojeda. They left the U.S. six years ago to avoid the deportation of Ojeda to Venezuela.

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

“Fifteen days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a green card has been issued to Shaun Stent, making him only the second same-sex spouse of an American citizen ever to receive a marriage-based green card. Shaun and John fought back by standing up to a powerful federal government agency that refused to recognize their marriage. After a decade of exhausting and expensive travel between the U.K. and Los Angeles that required long separations, the couple decided to fight back. 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.

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.

For the first time in our nation’s history, 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 in United States v Windsor, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy held that:

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

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

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.

COMING HOME! First Green Card Petition Approved for Gay Couple in DOMA Exile

Another first in the post-DOMA reality for binational couples: married, gay couple exiled in Canada becomes first to receive approval of green card petition that had been previously denied because of DOMA. Obama administration made good on the last week’s promise to review all green card petitions that had been denied based on DOMA. March 2011 denial of the green card petition filed by a gay married couple currently in exile has been reversed by the government!

facebook-tom-emilio

Tom and Emilio met in 2001 in New York City. A year earlier, like so many other gay men from his country, Emilio had left Venezuela in search of a better life in the U.S. As Tom and Emilio fell in love and set out to plan a future together as a couple, they abruptly ran into the cold, hard brick wall reality of anti-gay discrimination in U.S. immigration law.

For over a decade they have been deprived of a basic right that most families take for granted. Tom and Emilio have been denied the right to live together in this country. They have been denied the opportunity to build a life together with the support of Tom’s supportive and loving extended family in New Jersey.

Although Tom is an American citizen, he and his husband, Emilio, have been forced to start a new life in Canada far from Tom’s family in New Jersey. And because of Emilio was deprived of the usual path to lawful status, sponsorship by his American spouse, he was deported from the United States. That deportation meant that Tom and Emilio could not return for at least 10 years.

However, today’s approval of a green card petition that Tom filed for Emilio means that Tom and Emilio would be able to come home at last, after six years in exile!

Page 1 of 4312345...102030...Last »
© The DOMA Project

Attorney advertising

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.