Traian Popov becomes the first person to win a green card petition following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down DOMA on June 26. Popov, a Bulgarian graduate student, and his husband, Julian Marsh, were married in New York. Popov was approved for a permanent resident visa, although the paperwork needs to be processed.
Popov is living in America on a student visa, studying for his Ph.D in Conflicts Analysis and Resolution, but the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA led to his approval for a green card, reports the New York Times. The two met in 2011 and applied for a green card in February. Popov is enrolled at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, notes the Times.
While Popov’s marriage to Marsh is not recognized in Florida, he will now be able to receive federal benefits that had previously been denied to him due to DOMA. According to the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway, from the DOMA Project, the Florida couple was the first to have their green card petition approved and several more could be on the way in the near future.
The DOMA Project has filed at least 100 green card petitions for gay couples and said Marsh’s petition for Popov’s green card was approved on June 28 at 3:45 p.m. EDT by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS. According to the Associated Press, U.S. Department of Homeland Security could not confirm the couple’s claim on Monday.
Speaking of the petition’s approval, Marsh said in a statement, “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.”
While 13 states allow same-sex marriages, Florida does not, stemming from the approval of a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages in the state, notes AP. To overturn the constitutional amendment, 60 percent of voters in Florida would need to approve a new amendment allowing same-sex marriages.
Soloway noted the significance of the couple’s petition approval while commenting on Florida’s same-sex marriage ban as well as Sen. Marco Rubio’s gay rights policies. In a statement, Soloway said, “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. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has repeatedly and shamefully scapegoated gay Americans and their families, threatening to kill comprehensive immigration reform if it included a provision for LGBT families.”
Marsh said to the NYT the approval was like “winning the lottery.” Marsh said he and Popov will become activists to help end the same-sex marriage ban in Florida.