A Bulgarian man married to an American became the first gay spouse to receive approval for a permanent resident visa Friday following the Supreme Court decision Wednesday that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Traian Popov, a Bulgarian immigrant, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with American Julian Marsh, received the news by email Friday that he had been approved for his permanent visa, known as a green card, The New York Times reports
"It was just kind of a shock, like winning the lottery," Marsh said. "The amazing overwhelming fact is that the government said yes, and my husband and I can live in the country we chose and we love and want to stay in."
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Marsh said that they received the news Friday evening while they were celebrating his 55th birthday at a local Red Lobster restaurant.
Popov, 41, has been living on student visas for the last 15 years.
The Supreme Court decision has had a significant impact on American residents married to immigrants. Many same-sex couples had been embroiled in immigration battles in fear of one party being deported.
Popov and Marsh were married last year in New York and filed for a green card in February. However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevented the government from recognizing their marriage since it defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
While the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA does not give a blanket right to same-sex marriage, it does give same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples
The U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, the agency that issues visas, said that the first approval was supposed to come this week, but officials who were eager to get the work going started sending out notices Friday.
The agency has kept a list for the last two years of same-sex couples who had received green card denials, anticipating a Supreme Court DOMA ruling so that the denials could be reversed without the couples having to resubmit applications.
Same-sex couples such as Marsh and Popov will now move through the system in the same time frame as heterosexual binational couples, the Times reports.
Last week a judge in New York stopped the deportation of a Colombian gay man, Steven Infante
. The decision means Infante can stay with his American husband Sean Brooks.
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