St. Louis Gay Couple Among the First to Apply For Green Card Post-DOMA Ruling

Jul 19, 2013 at 7:58 am
click to enlarge Jourdan and Kirk made it official three years ago in Iowa. - Courtesy of the couple
Courtesy of the couple
Jourdan and Kirk made it official three years ago in Iowa.

Jourdan and Kirk have a pretty standard love story. Banker meets librarian, they date, fall in love, move in together and get married.

"It's not exceptional other than, it's two guys," says Kirk as he sits beside Jourdan in their attorney Jim Hacking's office. (The couple asked Daily RFT to use only their first names).

However, they're doing something exceptional in order to be together -- they are joining the first wave of gay and lesbian couples who are applying for green cards. Jourdan is a native of Singapore, where he met Kirk thirteen years ago. They traveled to Des Moines in June 2010 for their stateside wedding; Iowa legalized gay marriage in 2009.

After the Supreme Court ruled in late June that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the federal government is now recognizing marriages like Kirk and Jourdan's. That means Jourdan is the legal spouse of an American citizen and can apply for a marriage-based green card. They may be the first St. Louis couple to do so.

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Jourdan and Kirk lived together in Singapore before Kirk decided he wanted to live closer to his aging mother. Both knew what they were signing up for under DOMA: Their marriage would not be recognized and Jourdan would have to come and go on work visas (the two run a business together). That meant that for every day out of the year that Jourdan spent in the U.S., he had to spend a day in Singapore. In June 2012, they moved their life to St. Louis, and six months later, Jourdan returned to Singapore alone.

"When this happened, that I have to be away from him for six months, it was so painful," recalls Jourdan. "Of course at night, you cry, thinking about that. You feel lost."

But they were also keeping a close eye on the DOMA case winding its way up to the Supreme Court. They believed it might be several years of back and forth for Jourdan before the law was struck down, but as soon as they arrived in town in 2012 they contacted immigration attorney Jim Hacking.

"At that point, sadly there wasn't anything we could do," says Hacking.

Sad, perhaps, but Kirk and Jourdan's foresight meant that as soon as the law was found unconstitutional on June 27, they were ready. Hacking says he found out about the ruling from Kirk, not from the news.

"I got an e-mail within two hours," says Hacking. "I said, 'I don't think the ink is dry on the opinion yet.'"

Jourdan returned to St. Louis on June 18 as a visitor, but as of Tuesday, after Hacking dropped the paperwork in the mail, Jourdan now has an open case for a same-sex marriage-based green card petition. He can remain in the U.S. until his case is adjudicated. In the meantime, he'll be fingerprinted and background checked.

Thanks to the New York City-based DOMA Project, couples in other parts of the country already started the green card process and were able to obtain theirs shortly after the ruling came down. By the group's count, two lesbian couples and one gay couple have received green cards so far.

In six months, both Kirk and Jourdan will meet with an immigration official for their interview to determine if their relationship is "valid." That involves asking the couple questions about their life together and trying to determine if they are actually in love.

"We started playing a game of, 'So, what's your favorite color?' And, 'If you had to eat chicken or fish what would you prefer?'" says Kirk, adding he was shocked to find out Jourdan's favorite color has changed in the last two years.

"Well, preferences change," shrugs Jourdan.

"I can't wait to see this interview," says Hacking. "I think it might be fifteen minutes long."

"Really?" asks Kirk.

"If it was a heterosexual couple, with the story you're telling, we'd be in and out," says Hacking. "This is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I'm just along for the ride."

So is Daily RFT. We'll keep following Jourdan and Kirk's progress through the system, and update along the way.

Follow Jessica Lussenhop on Twitter at @Lussenpop. E-mail the author at [email protected].