Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- A Bulgarian graduate student and his American husband are the firstgay couple in the nation to have their green card petition approvedafter the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, their lawyer says.
But Traian Popov, here on a student visa, won't be able to work orvisit his family back home for at least another six months while hisgreen card can be processed. And his marriage to Julian Marsh, performedin New York, still won't be recognized in Florida where they live.
"It's unbelievable how that impacts you," Marsh told The AssociatedPress on Sunday. "They make you feel more and more like a second-classcitizen 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 lawdenying federal benefits to married gay couples, Marsh and Popov werenotified Friday afternoon that their green card petition was approved byU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security could not immediatelyconfirm Monday whether this case was the first. But the couple's lawyer,Lavi Soloway of The DOMA Project, which works to stop deportations and separations of gay couples caused by the Defense of Marriage Act, says it is.
Soloway says his organization has filed about 100 green-cardpetitions for same-sex couples since 2010 and expects more to beapproved in the next few days.
TheSupreme Court ruling is clear for same-sex couples who live in the 13states that allow same-sex marriages, but for couples like Marsh andPopov who traveled to another state to get married, the latest victoryfor marriage equality is bittersweet.
"We would like our marriage to be recognized even in a state where itwasn't performed in," Popov said. "We want civil recognition."
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008banning same-sex marriages, and it will take approval from 60 percent ofvoters to overturn it if the issue is put on the ballot again.
The couple said they met in 2011 at a friend's party and began dating shortly after.
"Wejust really liked each other and I knew this was the man I wanted to bewith," Marsh said. Six months after, exactly to the day, he asked Popovto move in and by 2012 they were married in Brooklyn, New York.
Popov,who is studying for a master's degree in social sciences, was able toremain in the U.S. as long as he was enrolled in school. When hegraduated, though, he would have had to leave the country if DOMA wasnot struck down.
"I wanted to stay with him forever inthe country that we chose to be in," Marsh said. And the pair beganplanning their next move -- both have a European background and Marsh isalso a Canadian citizen.
But the couple wanted to stayin Fort Lauderdale, where they live with their two Yorkshire terriers.So they reached out to The DOMA Project,
"I startedcrying," said Soloway of when he found out that not only DOMA wasoverturned, but that Marsh and Popov would be able to stay together inthe U.S. He said he was working to help dozens of other couples facingsimilar separations.