BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Two Fort Lauderdale men are the first wedded same-sex couple recognized by the United States for a green card, winning their immigration battle two days after the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to honor gay marriages.
“We’re in the history books,” said Julian Marsh, a well-known gay music producer and DJ, who sponsored his Bulgarian-born husband, Traian "Tray" Popov, for a green card. “Oh my God, that’s totally amazing.”
Marsh got the good news on Friday, his 55th birthday. Two days before, the Supreme Court ruled section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Section 3 had been the paragraph used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to deny green cards for foreign-born spouses in same-sex marriages.
“We are ecstatic that our country recognizes our marriage,” Marsh said Sunday. “I never doubted the Supreme Court would not overturn DOMA. Ever. It was in my mind impossible that anybody could stop love.”
Marsh met Popov, a Nova Southeastern University PhD student, in March 2011 at a party in Plantation. They met again at another gathering in Fort Lauderdale a week later.
“I said, ‘Hey, sit next to me for a bit.’ we started chatting and that was it. We’ve been together ever since,” Marsh recalled. “On our six-month anniversary, I said, ‘I love you and I want you to move in.’”
A short time later, they decided to marry. “I wanted to know we could be together forever. Tray is here on a student visa. As long as he’s enrolled in school, he can stay,” Marsh said. “We recognized back then that when Tray graduates we might have to leave our home and our country. We were willing to do that. We were planning on doing that. We were discussing where to move to. Thanks to the Supreme Court we can stay in our home now. We can be in the country that we love.”
Marsh and Popov couldn’t marry in Florida, which in 2008 passed a constitutional amendment banning civil unions and defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
On Oct. 19, 2012, Marsh and Popov wed in Brooklyn, N.Y. They live with a pair of Yorkshire terriers in Fort Lauderdale. “That’s our happy family,” Marsh said. “Tray, me and our two dogs.”
Though relieved that they won’t have to move to another country to stay together, Marsh and Popov are angry that Florida still doesn’t recognize their marriage.
“All we have in Broward County is a very meager domestic partnership that only allows hospital visitations,” said Popov, 41, who studies conflict analysis and resolution. “Obviously that is not enough.”
Their immigration attorney, Lavi Soloway of New York and California, believes Marsh and Popov’s case will “accelerate change” in Florida.
“That new reality changes the perspective of a lot of Floridians who probably never gave a thought to marriage equality,” said Soloway, co-founder of the DOMA Project for gay and lesbian binational couples.”
Soloway, who said he represents “scores” of similar couples in South Florida, is pleased the first gay couple to get a green card is from the Sunshine State.
“Florida ranks third behind California and New York in binational gay couples,” said Soloway, still angry that last month Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he would be “done” with immigration reform if gay couples were included.
On Wednesday, Rubio said he disagreed with the Supreme Court DOMA decision: “Rather than having courts redefine marriage for all Americans, my hope is that the American people, through their state legislatures and referendums, can continue to decide the definition of marriage,” Rubio said.
Soloway accused Rubio of “scapegoating and marginalizing gay Americans.”
“His shamefully and cowardly hiding behind the outdated notion that the civil rights of any minority should be determined by the majority and the democratic process is ludicrous,” Soloway said. “He is the child of Cuban immigrants. Had the question about whether Cuban immigrants should be allowed to come to the United States and given special preference — immediate legal status, which has been the case for decades — had that been put up for a popular vote, Marco Rubio may today be living in Havana."