Just two days after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, a Bulgarian immigrant who is married to an American man, became the first member of a same-sex couple to receive one of the biggest federal marriage benefits available. The couple's lawyer received an email on Friday night informing him that Traian Popov had already received approval for his permanent resident visa, even as the Supreme Court ruling that gave him that right was just a little over 48 hours old.
Popov has lived in the United States for 15 years through a long progression of student visas (he has three master's degrees and is working toward a doctorate) and married his spouse, Julian Marsh, in New York last year. He'll now get all benefits of not only marriage, but other important rights, including the ability to get an actual job. And he gets to be a small footnote to a historic event.
The speed with which Popov went from legal limbo to legal recognition is remarkable, but the Immigration and Citizenship Services agency was ready to act fast once DOMA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Numerous same-sex couples have applied for green cards and been denied on the grounds that their marriages are not recognized by the federal government. However, ICS has kept all the applications for the last two years on file in anticipation of the court ruling on the matter and has immediately reserved all their decisions automatically. As long as there are no other issues with the applications, they'll head back into the system and eventually to permanent status.
Cases like Popov's (gay immigrants hoping to achieve citizenship through marriage) had become a key debate point in the ongoing fight over immigration reform, but the Supreme Court ruling has made that discussion moot. Popov's case also underlines how quickly the Obama Administration is working to implement the changes in law that the end of DOMA has created.
Despite the good news, there's another fight ahead for Popov, his husband, and thousands of other same-sex couples across the country. Although they were legally married in New York, Popov and Marsh live in Florida. That puts them in the unusual circumstance of having their marriage recognized by Washington, but not by the state where they live.