The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

July 2, 2013

Lawyer: Gay couple in Fla. 1st to win petition for path to green card

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Bulgarian graduate student and his American husband are the first gay couple in the nation to have their application for immigration benefits approved after the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, their lawyer said.

The approval means Traian Popov, here on a student visa, will be able to apply for a green card, and eventually U.S. citizenship. But he won't be able to work or visit his family back home for at least another three to six months while his application benefits are being be processed. And his marriage to Julian Marsh, performed in New York, still won't be recognized in Florida where they live.

"It's unbelievable how that impacts you," Marsh told The Associated Press on Sunday. "They make you feel more and more like a second-class citizen and they don't want you. And that's how I feel about Florida."

Two days after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples, Marsh and Popov were notified Friday afternoon that their green card petition was approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security could not immediately confirm Monday whether this case was the first. Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday the government would start reviewing applications for green cards and other immigration benefits for same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision.

Popov and Marsh's lawyer, Lavi Soloway of The DOMA Project, said his organization filed about 100 green card petitions for same-sex couples since 2010 and expects more to be approved in the next few days.

Lawyers say the ruling would help same-sex couples who are running out of options or are facing deportations.

"Now all of those cases can go forward in the way they should with the government respecting the fact that there is a legally recognizable marriage there," said Laura Lichter, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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