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].

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Judy and Karin May 14 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We feel vindicated!” Judy smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

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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.

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.

Gay Couple in Florida Receives Approval of Marriage-Based Green Card Petition Just Two Days After Historic Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down DOMA

The DOMA Project Couple Receives First-Ever Approval of Green Card Petition, Recognizing their Marriage

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Just two days after the historic Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act Section 3, The DOMA Project participants, Julian Marsh and Traian Popov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida received good news. Julian’s green card petition for his Bulgarian husband was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at 3:45 p.m. EDT Friday afternoon June 28th. On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, 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 Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Julian and Traian met in March 5, 2011 at a friend’s home in Florida. Within a week, they had a second run-in at another friend’s house and began dating shortly thereafter. “I met him, I fell in love, and that was it,” says Julian. They married in Brooklyn, New York in October 2012, because of the connections both have had to New York City and because their home state of Florida does not permit same-sex couples to marry. Traian (“Tray”) Popov has been a student in the United States since 1998 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Conflicts Analysis and Resolution. Julian Marsh is an internationally acclaimed DJ and music producer.

As one of the binational couples participating in The DOMA Project, Julian, a U.S. citizen, filed an I-130 Petition for his husband Traian on February 13th, 2013. Notification of the approval of his petition arrived by e-mail on Friday from USCIS within just two days of the Supreme Court ruling. June 28th was also, coincidentally, Julian’s birthday.

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 be handled and processed as expeditiously as possible.

Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio stated on June 13th that he would walk away from any Senate bill to address the needs of same-sex couples and their families.

“We have love, joy and happiness in our lives. Thanks to the Supreme Court and President Obama we have an approved green card petition and we get to stay in our home and our country. If DOMA had not been struck down we were faced with no alternative but to leave our home and the country that we love so much.  We feel extremely grateful and fortunate to have been given the greatest gift possible as we celebrate gay pride around the country. Today we rejoice. Next week we get back to work to defeat all the barriers to full equality,” said Julian from his home in Florida.

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

“The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples nationwide is now a reality on the ground, just two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA. We expect additional approvals of green card petitions in the coming days.

“It is symbolically important that the first gay couple to receive approval of their green card petition live in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has repeatedly and shamefully scapegoated gay Americans and their families, threatening to kill comprehensive immigration reform if it included a provision for LGBT families. Today, the Supreme Court ruling affirmed that committed and loving binational lesbian and gay couples in Florida and across the country deserve to be treated with respect and equal recognition under the law by the federal government. In stark contrast to Senator Rubio’s disparaging tone rejecting the dignity of lesbian and gay Americans, the Supreme Court ruling and the green card approval have brought justice to Julian and Traian.”

“This historic first green card approval confirms that for immigration purposes the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA will extend equal recognition to same-sex couples in all 50 states, as long as they have a valid marriage.”

The DOMA Project is a campaign to stop the deportations, separations, and exile of gay and lesbian binational couples caused by the Defense of Marriage Act.

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.


SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN ANTI-GAY “DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT” IN HISTORIC RULING

MARRIAGES OF SAME-SEX COUPLES NOW RECOGNIZED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY


Gay American Citizens Can Now Sponsor Foreign-Born Spouses for Green Cards, Ending Immigration Nightmare

In a groundbreaking and historic ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States has placed itself on the right side of history and found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be an unconstitutional exercise of federal authority and a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Kennedy.  Originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, DOMA has denied lawfully married gay and lesbian couples from the benefits and protections of more than 1,100 federal provisions.  These wide-ranging benefits include all of immigration law and the right of an American citizen to sponsor his or her spouse for a green card and to file a fiancé(e) visa petition to bring his or her partner to the United States.

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Writing for the Court, Justice Kennedy stated unequivocally that,

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.  By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The DOMA Project has filed over 70 green card and fiancé(e) visa petitions for same-sex couples since its inception in 2010.  The sole basis for denial by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was Section 3 of DOMA.  After today’s ruling, that obstacle has, at long last, been removed.

Lavi Soloway, gay rights attorney and co-founder of the DOMA Project, offers his view on the ruling:

“Today’s historic ruling puts millions of lesbian and gay Americans and their families on equal footing under federal law.  By ending the discrimination against married same-sex couples, the Supreme Court has extended the promise of equality granted by the U.S. Constitution to all Americans regardless of sexual orientation.  Beginning today, lesbian and gay Americans will be able to file green card petitions for their foreign-born spouses and fiancé(e) visa petitions to bring their partners to the United States. The federal government will no longer stand in the way of lesbian and gay binational couples who seek nothing more than to build a life together in the United States.  The Supreme Court’s ruling is the culmination of years of the tireless efforts of courageous and determined couples who stood up for the right to be together, and fought back against a government that sought to tear apart their families.  We expect the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin approving green card petitions for married lesbian and gay couples immediately.”

The defeat of DOMA effectively means the end to deportation of spouses of gay and lesbian Americans who will now be eligible for green cards. It will reunite same-sex couples who have been torn apart and forced to live in separate countries, including many cases in which parents have been separated from their minor children, and it will end the exile of gay and lesbian Americans who have been forced to live abroad in order to be with the person they love.  With Section 3 of DOMA gone, our family-based immigration laws will now treat all families equally, regardless of sexual orientation.

The following couples are available for interviews and press:

Brian & Alfonso

San Francisco / Bay Area, CA

Donna & Dana

Los Angeles, CA

Shaun & John

Los Angeles, CA

Judy & Karin

San Jose, CA

Catriona & Cathy and their 3 children

Boulder, CO

Paul & Michael

Snowmass Village, CO

Daniel & Yohandel

Miami, FL

Brad & Raul

Exiled to Birmingham, England

From: Chicago and Geneseo, IL

Andi & Sveta

Macomb, IL

Lujza & Joy

Lexington, KY

Caroline & Laurie

Somerset, MA

Anton & Marco

Separated:

Anton: Madison Heights, MI

Marco: Italy

Brad & Christian

Separated:

Brad:  Kalamazoo, MI

Christian:  Uruguay

Becky & Sanne and their daughter

Asheville, NC

Ed & Tim

Separated:

Ed: Durham, NC

Tim: Cairo, Egypt

Margie & Janice

Waxhaw, NC

Ben & Dario

Elizabeth, NJ

Jennifer & Rachel

Secaucus, NJ

Enzo & Juan

New York City, NY

Luke & Brandon

New York City, NY

Glen & Tom

New York City, NY

James & Daniel

New York City, NY

Eric & Reinaldo

New York City, NY

Jesse & Maximiliano

Exiled to London, England

From: New York City, NY

Tom & Emilio

Exiled to Ontario, Canada

From: New York City, NY

Frédéric & Mark and their 4 children

Harrisburg, PA

Brian & Anton

Philadelphia, PA

Jon & Sergio

Providence, RI

Sarah & Emma and their baby son

Exiled to the Chapel-en-le-Frith, UK

From: Tiverton, RI

Andy & Achim

Exiled to Germany

From: Nashville, TN

Jennifer & Elizabeth

Houston, TX

Steven & Ricardo and their baby son

Tukwila, WA

For more information about any couple listed above or our campaign, and to schedule an interview, please contact Project Associate Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway, attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project.


Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder - Phone: 323-599-6915  

Derek Tripp, Project Associate - Phone: 646-535-3788

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Leahy Introduces Amendment to Immigration Bill to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

Leahy Proposes Two Amendments to Give Green Cards to Gay and Lesbian Couples

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

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced an amendment to the pending Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Bill that recognizes marriages of lesbian and gay couples for immigration purposes. The amendment carves out the first-ever exception from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which currently denies recognition of same-sex marriages under all federal laws.

DOMA Project co-founder, immigration and LGBT rights attorney Lavi Soloway reacted to the announcement of the marriage recognition amendment, calling it a “strategic masterstroke”:

“With Senator Leahy’s ingenious move, DOMA is once again front and center as the villain that has prevented gay Americans from sponsoring their foreign-born partners and spouses for green cards, and has torn apart so many LGBT families. Comprehensive immigration reform must include resolution of the catastrophic and, in many cases, irreparable harm caused to lesbian and gay binational couples, their children, and their extended families because of DOMA. Senator Leahy has deftly forced that issue to the surface, and in the process he has reminded all advocates that this legislative effort cannot be comprehensive as long as one group of American citizens are denied equal protection under the laws.

“Senator Leahy’s marriage amendment to the pending Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill is nothing short of a strategic master stroke. With this amendment, lesbian and gay binational couples would have immediate access to green cards and fiancé(e) visas even if DOMA remains the law of the land. Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the other amendment introduced today to recognize same-sex partners of American citizens for immigration purposes, would be immediately inoperative if the marriage amendment were passed into law, because the key component of UAFA is the creation of the ‘permanent partner’ category, which only exists as long as same-sex marriages are not recognized under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Senator Leahy has demonstrated today that he is a fierce advocate for LGBT equality.”

If passed, the amendment would provide gay and lesbian Americans with foreign born partners access to all marriage-related provisions of our immigration law including green cards for their spouses and fiancé(e) visas. Leahy’s amendment would ensure that the marriages of same-sex binational couples would be recognized for every aspect of U.S. immigration law exactly as the marriages of opposite-sex couples are recognized today.

Over the past three years The DOMA Project has filed over 70 green card petitions on behalf of gay and lesbian couples, and appealed 45 of those cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The petitions that were denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services all contained the following dispassionate and offensive language: “Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA, your petition must be denied.” Leahy’s amendment would relegate these denials to history.

The amendment offered by Leahy would correct this injustice by amending the Immigration and Naturalization Act with the following language:

“Notwithstanding [DOMA], an individual shall be considered a ‘spouse’ and a marriage shall be considered a ‘marriage’ for the purposes of this Act if the marriage of the individual is valid in the State in which the marriage was entered into, etc.”

Immediately upon enactment, married gay and lesbian couples would be able to petition for family based green cards for their spouses. Unmarried gay and lesbian couples would have access to fiancé(e) visas just as opposite sex couples do today.

In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Windsor vs. United States, a case challenging DOMA Section 3, in March. The Court’s ruling is expected in June.

The Leahy amendment is a critically important measure that give lesbian and gay binational couples equal access to family based immigration provisions in the event that the Supreme Court does not strike down DOMA Section 3 next month.

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


Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder
Phone: 323-599-6915
[email protected]

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

VIDEO: 17 Years After DOMA’s Introduction, Binational Couples Continue the Fight to Save their Families

BrianGavernSeventeen years ago, on May 7, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. At the time, legislators’ primary objective was to express moral disapproval of gays and lesbians. DOMA Section 3, which defines marriage for all federal purposes as between one man and one woman, has caused catastrophic and irreparable harm to American families. Same-sex married couples are barred from 1,138 provisions of federal law that are designed to strengthen families. By contrast, no marriages were actually defended.


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17 years ago, on May 7, 1996, DOMA was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate

17 YEARS AFTER THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT WAS INTRODUCED, GAY AND LESBIAN BINATIONAL COUPLES ENGAGE PUBLIC IN THE FIGHT TO KEEP THEIR FAMILIES TOGETHER

MARRIED GAY AND LESBIAN COUPLES CONTINUE TO BE DENIED ACCESS TO GREEN CARDS AND FIANCÉ(E) VISAS BECAUSE OF FEDERAL LAW

Seventeen years ago, on May 7, 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. At the time, legislators’ primary objective was to express moral disapproval of gays and lesbians. DOMA Section 3, which defines marriage for all federal purposes as between one man and one woman, has caused catastrophic and irreparable harm to American families. Same-sex married couples are barred from 1,138 provisions of federal law that are designed to strengthen families. By contrast, no marriages were actually defended.

For 17 years, DOMA has caused immeasurable financial and emotional hardship for gay and lesbian Americans, particularly those in long-term committed relationships with a foreign national. In Boulder, Colorado, Catriona lives with her spouse, Cathy, a citizen of Ireland. Together they are raising three children. This family lives under constant threat of separation ever since Cathy’s work visa ran out last year.

Other couples, like American, Jesse Goodman and Argentinean, Max Oliva, have been forced to live in exile in London, unable to return home. Others have no alternative but to struggle in long distance relationships indefinitely, traveling across the globe for short visits, sustaining their commitment to one another by Skype and telephone.

The years lost to DOMA will never be regained for these families. Even DOMA’s original sponsor, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr repudiated the discriminatory law in 2009 as an unacceptable infringement on individual liberty. President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, finally denounced it this past March. With 12 federal court rulings against DOMA in less than three years, and the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to fight DOMA alongside lesbian and gay plaintiffs, many commentators see a Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA as imminent.

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin work on the markup of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that excludes gay and lesbian couples. Senate Republicans have threatened that inclusion of an amendment to add gay families to the bill will ensure that comprehensive immigration reform goes down to defeat. Republicans are once again scapegoating gay Americans, rather than fixing a broken immigration system so that it protects all our families. Because gay and lesbian couples have been left out of immigration reform, everything now rides on a Supreme Court decision on DOMA due in a few weeks.

Despite some optimism, the Court’s final ruling on DOMA won’t be known until the day of the ruling. If the Court upholds DOMA, gay and lesbian Americans with foreign-born partners would have no recourse; couples and families would continue to be torn apart, parents separated from children, and American citizens driven into exile.

During this crucial time, DOMA Project participants are actively engaging with media, elected officials, and their broader communities with the message that their families’ futures hang in the balance. The DOMA Project has arranged for numerous gay and lesbian binational couples across the country to be available for interviews and for telephone and video conference interviews. facebook-may7b630

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

 

Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder

Phone: 323-599-6915

[email protected]

 

Derek Tripp, Project Associate

Phone: 646-535-3788

[email protected]

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Defense of Marriage Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On March 27th, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of Windsor v. United States, a challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 prohibits the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages, including for the purposes of immigration. Because of DOMA, tens of thousands of legally married gay and lesbian Americans are not able to petition their spouse for a green card or apply for a fiancé(e) visa to bring their partner abroad to the United States.  The result for many couples is that they are forced to live thousands of miles apart and only able to spend time with their husband or wife for weeks at a time. Other couples are exiled from the United States all together, and must relocate to another country in order to live with their spouse.


 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

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

DOWNLOAD PDF


MARRIED GAY AND LESBIAN COUPLES CONTINUE TO BE DENIED ACCESS TO GREEN CARDS BECAUSE OF FEDERAL LAW

 

Binational Couples & The DOMA Project Co-Founder Lavi Soloway Rally Outside the Supreme Court for an End to Law Which Keeps Families Apart or Exiled Overseas

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On March 27th, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of Windsor v. United States, a challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 prohibits the Federal Government from recognizing same-sex marriages, including for the purposes of immigration. Because of DOMA, tens of thousands of legally married gay and lesbian Americans are not able to petition their spouse for a green card or apply for a fiancé(e) visa to bring their partner abroad to the United States.  The result for many couples is that they are forced to live thousands of miles apart and only able to spend time with their husband or wife for weeks at a time. Other couples are exiled from the United States all together, and must relocate to another country in order to live with their spouse.

At issue in Windsor v. United States is whether the Federal Government was permitted to tax the estate that Thea Spyer left to her wife Edith Windsor as if the two were legal strangers. While estates left from one spouse to another are not typically taxed, Edith Windsor was given an over $360,000 tax bill.  The Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether DOMA violates the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution and whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has standing to defend the challenge to DOMA. In 8 lower Federal Court decisions, each reviewing court has found that DOMA violates the constitution because it discriminates against lesbian and gay Americans.

“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.”

The DOMA Project has filed over 40 green card and fiancé(e) visas for same-sex couples since the campaign began in 2010.  While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has continued to deny these applications based solely on Section 3 of DOMA, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has, in every case it has reviewed, told USCIS that is must determine the validity of these marriages on their face, and cannot deny these applications out of hand. The Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have the prerogative to hold these applications in abeyance; neither approving nor denying these applications until the Supreme Court issues a final decision in June.  An abeyance policy would respect the marriages of American citizens and allow gay and lesbian foreign-born partners to be reunited with their US citizen spouses in the United States.


For more information about today’s announcement, or to schedule an interview, please contact Derek Tripp or Lavi Soloway.  Lavi Soloway is an attorney for couples participating in The DOMA Project and co-founder of The DOMA Project.

Lavi Soloway, Attorney and Co-Founder – Phone: 323-599-6915 – [email protected]

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


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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.