South Florida Couple Makes National News and History After Green Card Application Approved
Julian Marsh and Traian Popov say it was fate that brought them together, but it took awhile to give into one another.
Popov laughs when he says he found his husband on an online dating site in early 2011, but was ignored. Then the two ran into each other at two consecutive parties hosted by mutual friends. When they got to talking, the two found that they fell in sync very quickly and instantly felt comfortable with each other. Fast forward a little more than a year and the couple made their relationship official when they married in October 2012 in Brooklyn, New York.
Now, two years after it all started, they’re swept up in a whirlwind of history-making and their names splashed in newspapers around the world.
The gay bi-national couple was the first to have their petition for a green card approved without ever first being denied - as has been the case for couples across the country. Just two days after the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, a clerk somewhere signed off on their application and changed their lives. Sometime in early 2014, Marsh - an American citizen - and Popov - a Bulgarian citizen on a student visa - hope to get that green card to keep Popov in the country, just like any other straight couple could.
The day the two received word that their petition was approved, the press started calling their lawyer from the DOMA Project.
"It was unbelievable, I had to create a spreadsheet to keep track," Marsh said. "It was overwhelming and for four solid days it was nonstop. It was hard to contemplate what was going on."
The DOMA Project (DOMAProject.org) is a nonprofit organization headed up by an immigration law firm in New York City, Masliah & Soloway, working to keep bi-national gay couples from being separated. With their marriages only being recognized by some states, many green card applications were being denied right off the bat. However, with optimism that the Supreme Court would overturn DOMA, many were applying for green cards just to get the process started and then appeal any denied applications. Marsh and Popov were taken on as clients pro bono and just paid for processing fees.
"They were the ones that guided us, we didn’t know what to do," Popov said.
Through even more serendipity, Equality Florida, a statewide advocacy group, had just launched its Get Engaged campaign the week before the DOMA ruling. With the news of Popov and Marsh spreading, the couple and the group teamed up to further the cause.
"It just so happened that out of all the bi-national couples throughout the country that it was Julian and Tray, who live right here in South Florida," said Sharon Kersten, public relations consultant with Equality Florida and long-time volunteer. "It’s like everything aligned to bring us together."
The couple filmed a short video for Get Engaged, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes as they told the story of how they met and what marriage means to them. The campaign encourages other LGBT couples to do the same to spread the word about marriage equality.
"The best way to win marriage equality is through changing hearts and minds, and that’s really the purpose of the Get Engaged campaign," Kersten said.
For Marsh and Popov, the decision to get married was not only the next logical step in their relationship, but also to keep Popov in the country when his studies at Nova Southeastern University were completed. After an emotional ceremony at a New York City courthouse - the two ironically lived in the Big Apple at the same time and never met, another sign to them that it was just meant to be - the couple ran to the DOMA Project office to turn in a copy of their marriage license to start the green card application.