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First Green Card Issued to Colorado Lesbian Couple

by Tanya Domi on July 5, 2013

in DOMA,News,Tanya Domi

Post image for First Green Card Issued to Colorado Lesbian Couple

Cathy Davis has become the first foreign national to be issued a green card through marriage to Catriona Dowling, her same-sex  American spouse

Cathy Davis, an Irish national was issued a Green Card on July 3 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, based on her marriage to Catriona Dowling, making Cathy the first immigrant to become a permanent resident in the U.S. through her marriage to a same-sex spouse.

 Catriona and Cathy met in Nepal while hiking the Himalayas in 2006 and it was love at first sight.  Both grew up in Ireland, only one town away from one another.  Cathy began visiting Catriona intermittently from Ireland, always having to return, because of the limitations of visitor visas.

Cathy eventually sought employment as a registered nurse in the U.S. and was sponsored by an employer in Texas, but was ultimately denied a work visa to remain in America.

Because their family situation became so tenuous, Catriona and Cathy joined The DOMA Project in June 2012 when they filed a green card petition, to prevent their family from being torn apart again.

The couple had a green card interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in January 2013.  The immigration officer who conducted the interview told them that if they had been a heterosexual couple, they would have been approved because of their extensive documentation.  Lavi Soloway, a co-founder of The DOMA Project, convinced the official not to deny their petition application, but to put it on hold.

The couple had scheduled an appointment on July 3rd with the Immigration Service, following up on Secretary Janet Napolitano’s public statement indicating that the government would act quickly, following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26th.

When they were called to the window at 10:55 a.m., they were informed by the supervisor that Cathy had been approved and the green card would be mailed to her.  She can also apply for American citizenship on July 3, 2016.

“When we’re asked why we took this route and fought for this green card with the help of The DOMA Project,” said Catriona,  “we say family is worth fighting for, and  our family deserves the same rights as all over families, it’s that simple.  It doesn’t take courage to fight for your family, it’s a responsibility.”

Listen to Cathy and Catriona talk about their journey to unite their family in Denver.

“Seven days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a green card has been issued to Cathy Davis, ” said Lavi Soloway, legal counsel to Davis and Dowling.  “She is the first same-sex spouse of an American citizen ever to receive a green card, and as such she will forever occupy an important place in the history of our civil rights movement.

“By issuing a green card to Cathy on the basis of her marriage to Catriona, the U.S. government is finally recognizing the inherent dignity of this family and giving tangible meaning to Justice Kennedy’s ruling.”

Since The DOMA Project was founded in 2010 by attorneys Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masliah, they have filed almost 100 green card petitions for same-sex couples affected by DOMA.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that it will soon issue guidance for all DOMA related immigration cases.

Congratulations to Catriona Dowling and Cathy Davis and their family! And congratulations to Lavi Soloway and Noemi Masilah for their ground breaking work via The DOMA Project!
Tanya domi 1.2010Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement.  She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.

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Huntercgo July 5, 2013 at 6:46 pm

According to this story, she is the second.

Soloway should have known that, since he represented Marsh and Popov. Your own story on them is here:

TanyaDomi July 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Actually Marsh's petition for sponsorship of Popov was approved, but Popov has another step to go before his green card is issued. They have not had their interview yet and the green card has not been issued. Very different from Dowling and Davis. Every couple has to file a petition and an application for a green card to get the green card. Once the petition is approved it means the USG classifies the beneficiary as the spouse of a USC for immigration purposes. With that approval, you can file the application for a green card and that requires an interview. 99% of the time they are filed concurrently and both are adjudicated and approved at the interview. At The DOMA Project they have had some “stand alone I-130 petitions” filed purposely to try to keep USCIS from denying the cases quickly (they deny them faster if you have the green card application filed in the same package). Cathy and Catriona had specific legal need to file both and they got lucky and made to the interview and had an exceptionally nice officer who more or less agreed to put the case on hold (despite that essentially being the opposite of the Obama administration’s policy). Cathy Davis will go down in history as the first person to receive a green card based on a same-sex marriage.

gaymarriageusa July 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

Q – in which state did the couple marry? Did they have a civil union in Colorado? Or did they marry in one of the states that permits same-sex marriage?

gaymarriageusa July 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

OK I see at the DP website they married in Iowa. I couldn't see that you mentioned that in the article but I think it's important to clarify as some people may wrongly assume that a civil union in Colorado (or other states that have them) will be okay for immigration and I don't think that's the case – marriage is what the fed govt will recognize for immigration purposes, correct?

TanyaDomi July 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Yes, the Federal government will only recognize a legal marriage performed in the 14 states and the District of Columbia. They would also likely recognize a Canadian marriage, as well. Now that DOMA has been struck down…there si no doubt that a civil union would not have standing for federal government purposes.

Jacjr56 July 6, 2013 at 5:54 pm

The case Windsor just settled on June 26 is about Edie Windsor who was married in Canada, lived in New York where her wife died and she had to pay estate tax on money she inherited from her dead wife's estate. The federal government has to pay her that money back. That is the Federal government recognizing Canadian marriage….. Colorado recognizes Cathy and Catriona's marriage in Iowa for state of Colorado purposes as a Civil Union…

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